BMW M1 art car by Frank Stella headed for the auction block

BMW M1 art car by Frank Stella – Click above for high-res image gallery

In a perfect world, maybe the world's top museums would have infinite space and infinite resources to acquire and display every significant piece of artistic creation they could get their hands on. But, as we are all at times painfully aware, this is an imperfect world. Which is why the Guggenheim Museum is forced to sell this unique BMW M1 art car, in order to raise funds and make way for other works of art. And their loss could be your gain.

The original Bavarian supercar was painted by the celebrated artist Frank Stella in 1979. But while BMW has commissioned many art cars (including another M1 by Andy Warhol and a 3.0 CSL also by Stella) since the program kicked off in 1975, this is the only one that was officially sanctioned by the factory for a private client, whereas all the others remained in the German automaker's private collection. This, then, represents an extremely rare opportunity to acquire an original BMW art car.

The vehicle has been part of the museum's collection since 1999, and will be auctioned by Bonhams this coming August at the Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, where it's expected to fetch around half a million dollars, an estimate we can see it blowing right past. Us? We're just hoping that BMW itself decides to bid on the car so that this Stella M1 can rejoin its celebrated relatives in the German automaker's collection.

If you're in New York and want to catch a glimpse at this one-of-a-kind rolling work of art, it's currently on display outside Bonhams' offices in the atrium of the IBM Building at 56th and Madison.

Follow the jump for the official press release and scope out the images in the gallery below.
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1979 M1 Pro Car is the only example to have ever been painted by a factory-authorized artist for a private client.

12 May 2011 - San Francisco – In anticipation of its 14th annual summer sale at Quail Lodge (the longest running auction during the famed Pebble Beach Car Week), Bonhams is delighted to announce that it has been selected to represent the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum's singular 1979 BMW M1 Pro Car painted by Frank Stella.

The famed BMW Art Cars series began in 1975 when artist Alexander Calder was commissioned by BMW to paint a car that was to be raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Since then, the impressive roster of modernist artists employed by the company works has included such illustrious names as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and David Hockney, to name a few.

Included in that exclusive guild of artists was Frank Stella who, in 1979, used his series "Polar Coordinates" as inspiration for the unique, one-off BMW race car offered here. Special ordered by seven-time world champion IMSA racer Peter Gregg, the car was built by BMW Motorsport GmbH to BMW Pro Car Group 4 specifications and painted by Stella as a tribute to the memory of his and Gregg's mutual friend, the great Formula 1 Grand Prix-winning driver Ronnie Peterson.

This is the only BMW car ever painted by an authorized BMW Art Car artist for a private client and, therefore, is totally unique from the 16 official Art Cars commissioned to date by BMW. In addition to being a rare and beautiful example of popular culture and automotive art, this M1 is also purpose-built for performance and is a true race car.

Given to the prestigious Guggenheim Museum in 1999, the Stella M1 will be offered at Bonhams' annual sale of exceptional collectors' motorcars at Quail Lodge in Carmel, California on August 18-19. Proceeds of the sale will support art acquisitions by the Guggenheim Museum.

Owners interested in consigning exceptional automobiles to this anticipated sale – a veritable institution during the most important collector car week in the world – may call 415-391-4000 or e-mail one of the following Bonhams motoring specialists:

Rupert Banner, New York:
Mark Osborne, San Francisco:

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