Andy Warhol created one, and Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons and John Baldessari didn't miss the opportunity either. Now Richard Phillips has designed his own ‘Art Car’. The American artist, known for his hyper-realistic style, who is under contract with the renowned Gagosian Gallery and has works in major museums such as New York’s MoMA and London’s Tate Modern, has been commissioned by Porsche Switzerland to transform a Taycan into a rapid work of art. The fully electric sports car was created live as part of a campaign in December 2020 in the Leuehof pop-up restaurant on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse. Now, the unique Art Car is being auctioned in co-operation with RM Sotheby’s for a charitable cause.
The colorful, floral work of art that adorns the curves of the Taycan Art Car is reminiscent of a tropical paradise garden with its flower and cactus plants – it even gave the local police a feeling of spring during the cold winter photoshoot in St. Moritz and Zurich. In fact, the carnation-like cactus plant known as the ‘Queen of the Night’, which unfolds its blossoming splendor on the bonnet of the Porsche, is found mainly in the Caribbean and South America. And yet the motif has a direct connection to Switzerland. Richard Phillips' painting ‘Queen of the Night’, which he transferred to the organic forms of the Taycan, is a direct homage to a work by the Swiss landscape painter Adolf Dietrich. While visiting the Kronenhalle in Zurich a few years ago, Phillips came across a picture of the artist. Enthusiastic, he began, in the spirit of Appropriate Art, to copy, enlarge and reinterpret the artist's paintings, which oscillate between hyper-realism and naivety.
“Conceptually, my Queen of the Night livery takes into consideration that the design of the Taycan is an instant icon of electric mobility and speed,” commented the artist. “Its lines and form are that of the artists and designers at Porsche who strove to communicate this feeling at first sight. I greatly respect this objective. The choice work with my Dietrich-inspired painting was to reference the natural environment with its beauty and composition reimagined in concert with the sweeping gestures of the Taycan.”
In fact, this Taycan isn’t the first art car designed by Phillips. The avid Porsche driver had already penned a livery for a 911 RSR in 2019, which entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For the electric four-door, however, he consciously chose a new approach – as the art critic and curator Gianni Jetzer, who is also involved in the project, sums it up: “The breathtaking blue tones of the sky and Lake Constance frame the elaborate composition of succulent plants. This creates an image of serenity and purity that resonates with the emissions-free sports car.”
“In contrast to the Italian Futurists of over a century ago, who, fascinated by the roar of gasoline engines, brought images of speed, smoke, and furor to life, Phillips imagines an even faster vision of 21st-century electrified sports mobility. Inspired by nature, it reflects and integrates the landscapes it passes through while also being environmentally sustainable.”
Incidentally, the unique Art Car has been further individualised by Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur in Stuttgart: The phrase ‘Queen of the Night’ lights up on the door sill strips and Phillips' signature is projected onto the ground when you get in.
The colorful Taycan Art Car should also bring artists, workers and creatives from the Swiss cultural scene – who’ve been particularly hard hit by pandemic restrictions – to a new bloom. The entire proceeds of the online auction, which will take place from 6-13 April and is organised by RM Sotheby's, benefits the association Suisseculture Sociale. All partners of the project – from Phillips to the auction house to Basel Galerie Weiss Falk – have waived their commission in favour of the good cause. Porsche Schweiz AG is bringing the Taycan 4S and the other contents of the auction. "We are very grateful for Porsche's commitment to the Swiss cultural scene and naturally hope for a high auction price," commented Nicole Pfister Fetz, President of Suisseculture Sociale.
It’s hoped, then, that the hammer for this wonderfully positive Taycan Art Car will only come down at a substantial sum. Spring brings with it a splendid revival not only for artists and cultural workers in Switzerland, but all over the world. All under the sign of the ‘Queen of the Night’.
Photos by Andrea Klainguti © 2021