They leave every day from Grand Central Terminal — train cars and subway cars. But yesterday, New Yorkers witnessed a rarer departure: art cars.
Two weeks ago, an installation of four BMW art cars arrived at Grand Central straight from a show at the L.A. County Museum of Art. Yesterday they left NYC on an express line to Mexico for a three-city museum tour.
I got to see the show when it stopped in here in New York: four BMW race cars painted by some of the greatest artist of the modern era. Cars by Frank Stella and Andy Warhol were a special treat. They’re numbered (having actually raced) and for me, that removes some of the preciousness inherent to modern art and replaces it with high-performance automobile design. Joining them were cars by Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg and a huge swath of Robin Rhode’s “An Expression of Joy” canvas. It’s a 30X40-foot section of a bigger work that Rhode painted with a 2009 BMW Z4 Roadster. (That’s right, with.)
The art cars on tour belong to a collection of 16 that BMW has commissioned over the years. The first was the brainchild of Hervé Poulain. Hoping to make his car more distinctive in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, Poulain asked his friend Alexander Calder to give it a paint job. What followed was what may be the best ever execution of corporate sponsored art. (Ernest Fuchs, A.R. Penck, David Hockney, and Jenny Holzer are just a few of BMW’s other contributing artists.)
Predating what I consider to be an unfortunate homogenization trend in automotive design, the signature BMW look of these cars would be a treat to behold even without cosmetics — but with, they were enough to rubberneck even the most focused of New York’s racing commuters.
If you’re sorry to have missed this bit of automotive goodness (and you won’t be in Mexico anytime soon), fear not. Studio 360 has a couple of car segments in the shop getting tuned up for broadcast in the not so distant future.
- Kurt S. Schlachter