1979 BMW M1 Procar art car by Frank Stella

Art cars are growing in popularity, with a number of automakers and their subsidiaries getting on board the trend. But BMW is where it all started. The German automaker has been at it since 1975. A good blogger's dozen of them have been commissioned for BMW over the years, and every one of them has remained in the company's private collection. Except one.

That one is the M1 Procar you see here, painted by Frank Stella in 1979. It remains the only example in the series that was created for a private individual with BMW's blessing. After years in the Guggenheim, Bonhams auctioned it off a couple of months ago at Monterey for a whopping $854,000 – well above estimate.

So who bought it? Jonathan Sobel, owner of (among other interests) BMW of Southampton, way out at the eastern end of New York's Long Island. The dealership is just settling in to its new showroom on Montauk Highway, and that's where the M1 art car will be showcased for much of the new year ahead. So if your plans include a trip out to the Hamptons, you may want to stop by for a rare glimpse. Press release after the jump.
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Frank Stella Art Car, a BMW M1 Procar Model, Is Acquired by Collector Jonathan Sobel – The First Art Car to Be in Private Hands
Stella Art Car to Go on Public Display at BMW of Southampton Dealership in 2012

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jonathan Sobel, owner of BMW of Southampton and an avid art collector, has acquired the Frank Stella BMW M1 racing car, becoming the only private owner of a BMW Art Car. Sobel purchased the Art Car at a Bonhams auction in Pebble Beach on August 18, 2011. The car will be on public display at the BMW of Southampton showroom in 2012 in its new facility, which is designed by former Gwathmey Siegel & Associates' architect, Joe Ruocco.

"The Stella M1 combines my two hobbies and passions, art and automobiles. It represents the marriage of art, engineering, and functional design." Explains Sobel, "The Stella M1 combines my two hobbies and passions, art and automobiles. It represents the marriage of art, engineering, and functional design." Commissioned in 1979, the Frank Stella BMW M1 Procar was painted to Stella's "Polar Coordinates" design and created for Stella's close friend, race-car driver, Peter Gregg. This was the only time that a BMW-commissioned artist created a car for anyone other than the manufacturer itself. The "Polar Coordinates" design is based on a series of prints that Stella made in homage to his friend, Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson, who passed away during the Italian Grand Prix.

Stella (American, b. 1936), who is an essential figure in the history of art with works in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is also a devoted fan of racing. The influence of racing is evident in his print series "Circuits" (1980-1984) which presents abstract depictions of racetracks he visited.

There are only 18 BMW Art Cars in existence, created by artists hand-selected by BMW including: Alexander Calder, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol. The Frank Stella M1 Art Car was previously owned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Jonathan Sobel

Jonathan Sobel is the Managing Member DTF Holdings, LLC, an investment firm in New York. He is also the Managing Member of Six Sigma Auto Group, which owns the BMW, Audi, Porsche, and MINI dealerships in Southampton, as well as commercial real estate in the area. Sobel spent more than 21 years at Goldman Sachs & Co. in New York.

He is a Trustee of the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Dalton School, and the Public Art Fund. He is also a member of the Executive Committee for the Board of Visitors of Columbia College. Sobel has received Columbia College's John Jay Award for Alumni Achievement and their Dean's Award for service to the College. He holds an A.B. in Economics from Columbia.

BMW of Southampton is located at 35 Montauk Highway, Southampton, NY 11968 and at www.bmwofsouthampton.com