Beautiful Art Cars, Designed by Warhol and Lichtenstein, Hit America

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

from Cartel Agency Inc. by


Back in the 1970s, the French racer Herve Poulain came up with the great idea to have an American artist paint his car. Instead of choosing someone who would do a relatively standard, acceptable, and OK job, he chose Alexander Calder, who created the memorable piece of work you see above. Although Calder died just a year later, he started a movement in art and car design that continues to this day.

While it’s not a grand, sweeping, big-time art trend, it is something that marries the otherwise little connected worlds of professional racing and contemporary art. Although many modern car designers can rightfully be called artists, and many of the designers as far back as the 1950s were creating cars that still look like masterpieces today, it wasn’t until this pairing that we started to see the car-as-canvas.


BMW decided to remain in the spotlight, and comissioned several other prominent artists to do their own cars. Not only are the cars themselves fantastically adapted to this sort of thing (there’s just something about that 1970s BMW racing design that holds a coat of unconvential paint so much better than, say, a Porsche), but the works of art created are quite memorable, too.

Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol all contributed work, and at the moment there are only 16 of these BMW art-cars in total. They’ve recently been sent on tour, and after short residences in Korea and Russia, they’re currently in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They’re staying just until February 24th, after which they’re headed to New York and Mexico.


These cars are normally on display at the BMW museum in Munich, and the coolest thing about them is that most were actually used in races. I would pay to see someone racing an Andy Warhol car, I would, even though the Frank Stella one (above) is actually the most impressive.

This put me in mind of some other recent “art cars” we’ve seen, and we thought it a good idea to round them up here:


The aforementioned Ferrari Testarossa from 1957 isn’t an art car, but it should be. Just look at that detailing: it’s a 1950s (Italian) idea of what the future would look like, except it hasn’t gone out of style in any way.


Some recent new forumla 1 rules mean that the cars have to be completed redesigned, but look, the McLaren team car actually looks pretty awesome! Straight out of the damn future, I say.


Chris Gilmour has done up some very fine cardboard models of the Fiat 500 and the Aston Martin DB5. No, these aren’t just little models, which wouldn’t be much of anything to pay attention to—these are full-sized recreations.


Here’s artist Romero Britto’s take on a recent Audi model. At the time Jalopnik reported on it, it was available for sale in Miami. Definitely inspired by the BMW cars, it doesn’t quite reach their level, but isn’t bad.


This one was pretty famous in the blogosphere last year: a Lamborghini made entirely of steel tubing. It’s amazing, because the photos look exactly like something done up in a 3d program, and then inserted into real-life photos, except the entire thing is real-life.

Any more amazing combinations of art & cars you know of? Let us know!

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