BMW Art Car Proves That Performance and Style Can Stand Side by Side at the Track

Saturday, June 26, 2010
By SeattleTool

World renowned artist Jeff Koons had his latest installment displayed in one of the most non-conventional galleries in the world this month.

Since 1923 crews and drivers have been testing themselves in the 24-hour Le Mans, France Race and it’s a sure bet that most of them don’t consider the paint job to be much of a factor in their success.

Yet, BMW’s Art Car initiative, now in its 17th installment, received global recognition for melding the world of artistic expression and speed together at Le Mans, a race known more for testing endurance than showcasing modern art.

As BMW describes it, Koon’s art car imparts “a dynamic experience, even when it’s standing still.”

The extremely colorful lines flashing across the contours of the car do exactly that, giving the viewer the feeling of acceleration even when merely looking at a small photo of it.

Aesthetics and aerodynamics are not always easy to successfully meld together. The BMW design and engineering teams worked closely with Koons, who used 3-D design models of the car to simulate how different materials and applications would affect the M3 GT2’s  performance.

Koons describes his art as “transcending” with the power that is under the hood of a race car. “This car is about this type of life energy, this desire to achieve and this desire to win,” he said at the June 1 unveiling in Paris.

Just like cars, product design for other trackside features, including hand tools and storage units, should not be purely functional. While the ultimate goal -- to be trumped by no other -- is performance, the value of aesthetics in the world of racing and mechanics is significant in its own way.

From a practical point of view, Koon’s design won’t make BMW’s entry into the world’s longest running automotive endurance race any faster or more durable. The artwork itself participates in a whole different sphere of the race, so to speak. It appeals to the viewer’s understanding that speed and endurance have a beauty that can be expressed in a way other than strictly performance.

As shown by the company’s newest installation of the art car -- previous installations included works by renowned artists Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jenny Holzer to name a few -- BMW understands that form and function can compliment each other.

 Even when durability is the name of the game, there is still room for artistic expression and style.

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