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Click above for a high-res gallery of the BMW Art Cars at the L.A. County Museum of Art

Last week, we told you that four of BMW's Art Cars were starting their North American tour in L.A., and that if you were in the area you should go check them out. Well, we took our own advice and spent a sunny SoCal Saturday afternoon at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art admiring the cars. On display are some of the most famous examples (most of the sixteen-car collection remains at BMW's museum in Munich) including Andy Warhol's 1979 BMW M1 Group 4 racer, Frank Stella's 1976 BMW 3.0 CSL, Roy Lichtenstein's 1977 BMW 320i Group 5 racer, and Robert Rauschenberg's 1986 BMW 635csi. The cars will be at the museum in Los Angeles until February 24. From there, they head to New York from March 24 to April 6 and then on to Mexico after that. For those of you who you can't see the cars in person, we've included plenty of high-res photos in the gallery below.

Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
Rare, behind-the-scenes video footage of the artists complements the installation

Los Angeles - The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents an installation of BMW Art Cars designed by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg from February 12-24, 2009. The cars will be on view in the BP Grand Entrance, an admission-free area of the museum's campus. LACMA is the first U.S. venue in a major worldwide tour of the cars; they next appear in New York City's historic Grand Central Terminal, March 24-April 6, before heading to a three-city museum tour in Mexico.

"We are pleased that the BMW Art Cars have returned to LACMA. The David Hockney car was on exhibition as part of David Hockney: A Drawing Retrospective in 1996 and we are eager to welcome this wider selection by some of the world's most celebrated artists to the museum," said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director.

Rare, behind-the-scenes footage of the four cars will also be on display, complementing the presentation. The videos reveal a young Warhol constructing his car, Frank Stella and Robert Rauschenberg discussing their inspirations and influences in creating their respective pieces, and various experts including Hervé Poulain, the race car driver and initiator of the Art Car Project, discussing the resulting impact of these works.

"Art, architecture, and design are very important to our daily business," said Chris Bangle, BMW Chief Designer. "We are proud that some of the most respected artists in the world have interpreted their thoughts and their points of view through our cars. It is an interesting and inspiring process and we always look forward to the moment an artist draws the curtain."

The BMW Art Car Project was originally conceived by the French racecar driver Hervé Poulain, who had the idea of inviting an artist to use an automobile as a canvas. In 1975, Poulain commissioned American artist Alexander Calder to paint his BMW racing car. Since then, prominent artists throughout the world have joined the elite cast of Calder, Stella, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg, and have designed sixteen BMW Art Cars, based on both racing and regular production vehicles. The most recent contributors to the BMW Art Car program are David Hockney (1995), Jenny Holzer (1999), and Olafur Eliasson (2007). New artists are chosen by a prestigious panel of international judges, and BMW is currently in discussions for the development of the seventeenth art car.

"BMW's Art Cars have become a medium of expression for some of the world's most distinguished artists and there is no better place to showcase these cars than at LACMA, which is ideally situated in a region that dedicates equal passion to art and driving," noted Christopher Mount, design historian.

BMW Art Cars have been exhibited by numerous museums and galleries throughout the world, including the Louvre in Paris, the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, and the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao. Aside from being displayed at their home base at the BMW Museum in Munich, BMW Art Cars will continue to be shown at future international exhibitions. In 2006, they were sent on an extensive tour of Asia, which took them to Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Korea, Australia, India, Taiwan, China, Russia and Africa. The Art Cars will continue to be exhibited worldwide through 2010.

LACMA's permanent collection includes key works by the four artists whose art cars will be displayed, including Warhol's Black and White Disaster, Stella's Getty Tomb, Lichtenstein's Cold Shoulder, and Rauschenberg's print, Booster.

About BMW and Contemporary Art

BMW has a long-standing commitment to contemporary art starting with Gerhard Richter's 1972 commission of three large-scale paintings for the foyer of the company headquarters in Munich. Karl Schwanzer's architectural post-war icon, the "four cylinder" building, marked the beginning of the company's emphasis on an innovative, dynamic style of construction which was extended in 2005 with the central building of the new BMW Leipzig Plant, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. BMW has been engaged in the sponsorship of cultural formats for more than thirty years with hundreds of international commitments. In each endeavor, the utmost importance is attached to total freedom of creative potential-recognizing that this is just as much a guarantee for groundbreaking achievements in art as it is for the most crucial innovations within a successful business enterprise.

Since its inception in 1965, LACMA has been devoted to collecting works of art that span both history and geography-and represent Los Angeles' uniquely diverse population. Today, the museum features particularly strong collections of Asian, Latin American, European, and American art, as well as a new contemporary museum on its campus, BCAM. With this expanded space for contemporary art, innovative collaborations with artists, and an ongoing transformation project, LACMA is creating a truly modern lens through which to view its rich encyclopedic collection.

General Information: LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90036. For more information about LACMA and its programming, call 323 857-6000 or visit lacma.org.

Museum Hours and Admission: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, noon–8 pm; Friday, noon–9 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11 am–8 pm; closed Wednesday. Adults $12; students 18+ with ID and senior citizens 62+ $8; children 17 and under are admitted free. Admission (except to specially ticketed exhibitions) is free the second Tuesday of every month and on Target Free Holiday Mondays. After 5 pm, every day the museum is open, LACMA's "Pay What You Wish" program encourages visitors to support the museum with an admission fee of their choosing.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      The M1 looks like a kindergartener painted it, and the 3.0 CSL is just engineering grid paper with some lines drawn on it. I fail to see how these are precious. If someone can actually explain the significance of what is painted on these cars, I'd like to learn more -- but at first glance it is nothing special.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I personally don't think they ruined any of these cars except the 635. Were the other paint jobs necessary? No. I agree with Mobius_1. But to be honest they really don't look that much different (paintwise) than half the other racecars out there. But that 635 just looks nasty and doesn't seem to fit with the others...
        • 6 Years Ago
        That goes a long way towards explaining the significance of this series because, frankly, when this series of Art Cars started, motorsports graphics were fairly mundane. Granted, we had the Gulf-sponsored cars (LeMans-winning GT40, Porsche 917, etc.) but the era of national colors (British Racing Green, Belgian Racing Yellow, French Racing Blue, etc.) had just passed, with a few exceptions, and though we're now inundated with corporate sponsorship (or what still survives these economic times), the increasingly sophisticated & eye-catching graphics on today's cars are somewhat influenced by Art Cars of the past.

        Take a close look at some of the rather complex graphics packages on GT Porsches in ALMS and, then, take a look at some of these (including the Lichtenstein, Stella & Warhol).

        On the other hand, something that is clear with these Art Cars is the fact that they eschewed the increasing amounts of sponsor identification that appeared on race cars in the 1970s (it wasn't that long ago, it seems that Ferrari F1 cars were red and, that was it, even before the red was modified to more closely match the red of the team's primary sponsor, Marlboro). The relative lack of sponsorship identification is another reason these cars were so eye-catching.

        Finally, really, even if you're not "into" art, the particular artists chosen are significant because they represent Pop Art. This branch of the visual arts influenced so many other venues (advertising, music, movies, etc.) that it has to be that something painted by Frank Stella, Warhol or Lichtenstein should be considered notable.

        Besides all that, something like this brings some awareness of motorsport to people who might otherwise have limited awareness (not to mention appreciation). And, that's not a bad thing, at all...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why do they even bother painting them? Those cars ARE art.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The M1 reminds me of a Harlequin VW Golf

      • 6 Years Ago
      Yeah, Famous artists of the era "painted" these. Frank Stella's 3.0 CSL IS art on art! The others? Not so much - IMHO.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why ruin an M1? Why not paint the ugly, useless SUV's that BMW makes? I own some odd art like Michael Godard, but this just does not work for me. I could see it on a canvas, but on a car, it looks like the car was poorly painted by someone in their backyard with a paint brush. Just an overall failure.
        • 6 Years Ago
        They should paint Chris Bangle...
        • 6 Years Ago
        Totally agree. What a waste of the M1...
        • 6 Years Ago
        These aren't new paintings and it was far from some random painter in a back yard.

        This M1 was painted by Andy Warhol back in 1977. It's probably the most valuable M1 around.
        • 6 Years Ago
        You should study up on your art history these cars where painted by some of the most famous artist in the modern 20th century. the Andy Warhol M1 is probably worth millions. even more amazing is that they raced these cars witch I think just adds more to the value. They are much more then just cars and most deffantly not a waste of a M1. the value of a Warhol original is an incredible amount of money.