23 April 2012

Race Car Of The Day: 1979 BMW M1 Group 4 Le Mans Car (aka Art Car 04)

The name Andy Warhol is nowadays almost synonymous with Pop Art, with only Roy Lichenstien being able to also lay claim to that status. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928, he studied from 1945 to 1949 at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, and immediately after this started a career as a successful graphic artist in advertising. He went on to become a central figure in the Pop Art movement, finding fame worldwide for his work as a painter, an avant-garde filmmaker, a record producer, an author and a public figure known for his presence in wildly diverse social circles that included bohemian street people, distinguished intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy aristocrats.

His work went on display as early as 1952 in New York. In 1956 he received the coveted “Art Directors Club Award.” At his legendary “Factory,” at which he employed a whole team of workers, classic art concepts were negated and overturned in an unprecedented manner.
His “mass productions” of prominent faces became well known, as well as painted trivialities such as soup tins and Coca-Cola bottles. A controversial figure during his lifetime (his work was often derided by critics as hoaxs), Warhol has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions, books and documentary films since his death in 1987. He is generally acknowledged as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.

Warhol set about work in an typically unabashed manner after being commissioned to transform an M1 Group 4 race car into a BMW Art Car as he thought best. All the other artists who had previously decorated BMW racing cars had done so by painting a draft version on a scaled-down model; this was then transposed to the actual car by assistants under the artist’s supervision. Warhol, however, was the first to paint everything himself. By transferring his ideas to the car in this spontaneous and direct manner, he could clearly stamp his own character on it. It reportedly took him all of 23 minuted to fully paint the car from first brushstroke to signing his signature on the rear bumper.

The first and only time this rolling work of art took part in a race was at the '79 Le Mans race. It was driven by Manfred Winkelhock, team owner Herve Poulain (who also commissioned Warhol to paint the car) and Marcel Mignot. They finished second in their class and sixth overall, impressive given the dominance of the Porsche 934/935s and the sole non-Porsche to finish above them, the Cosworth DFV-powered Rondeau M379.

And now some footage of Warhol painting the car. If you or I painted a BMW M1 with a decorating brush we'd be declared insane; when an artist does it it's genius. That's modern art for you.

Raw info courtesy BMW AG.

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