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A Canvas on Wheels: Julie Mehretu’s BMW Artistic Marvel

A Canvas on Wheels: Julie Mehretu's BMW Artistic Marvel

BMW Group

The Centre Pompidou in Paris recently hosted the unveiling of BMW’s 20th Art Car project, created by American painter Julie Mehretu. Mehretu, an Ethiopian American artist, expressed her fascination with motor racing, describing it as a sport, an imaginative outlet, and a creative endeavor.

A Canvas on Wheels: Julie Mehretu's BMW Artistic Marvel

The latest addition to the BMW Art Car series is the twentieth car and the first hybrid model. This initiative began in 1975 when racing driver Hervé Poulain invited artist Alexander Calder to paint a BMW 3.0 CSL, which was then raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Over the years, renowned artists such as David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Cao Fei, and Jeff Koons have contributed to the series, with additional spin-off works and limited editions introduced in recent times.

A Canvas on Wheels: Julie Mehretu's BMW Artistic Marvel

Each Art Car is a unique racing car, and for this particular project, Mehretu transformed the new BMW M Hybrid V8 racecar into a dynamic work of art. Drawing inspiration from her monumental painting “Everywhen,” currently exhibited at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Mehretu incorporated elements of color and form from the painting onto the car’s surface.

A Canvas on Wheels: Julie Mehretu's BMW Artistic Marvel

“Everywhen” was influenced by a photograph capturing the events in Washington on January 6, 2021, including the attack on Capitol Hill. Stimulated by the lockdown, Mehretu saw the opportunity to explore her painting in a fresh perspective by working with a dynamic, three-dimensional moving machine. She metaphorically describes her Art Car as blasting through the painting, absorbing its energy, and symbolizing movement and speed through the concept of blur and glitch.

A Canvas on Wheels: Julie Mehretu's BMW Artistic Marvel

The car’s abstract visual forms are derived from digitally manipulated photographs, layered with dot grids, neon-colored veils, and Mehretu’s signature black markings. Mehretu aimed to create a fusion of painting and car design, with the car’s grille even reflecting elements of the painting. Through 3D mapping, Mehretu transferred motifs onto the car’s aerodynamic contours, specifically designed for the Le Mans race.

A Canvas on Wheels: Julie Mehretu's BMW Artistic Marvel

The transformation of the car’s appearance, including the M logo, intrigued Mehretu, as the logo appeared shattered in different colors when stationary, but came to life when the car was in motion. By intentionally blurring the car’s design when moving and revealing the digitization and animation of marks when stationary, Mehretu sought to convey the car’s unique experience. The juxtaposition of stillness and motion highlights the dynamic nature of the car’s design and the artwork it embodies.