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Julie Mehretu’s BMW Art Car is a PanAfrican racer on its way to Le Mans

It’s been a little while since we last saw a BMW Art Car, but after its reveal in Paris, Julie Mehretu’s Art Car is heading to Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d'Este in Lake Como, before its arrival at Le Mans 2024.

Art and the automobile go very much hand in hand. Aside from the sculpture work that goes into a car’s design, once the clay and pens have been downed, and the finished product is brought to life, the canvas is still somewhat empty. BMW knew just what to do with these pieces of rolling blank canvases, where those three little words now stand for the legendary fusion of the brand’s most iconic cars with world-famous artists. Now it’s the turn of painter Julie Mehretu with the 20th landmark edition, transforming a BMW M Hybrid V8 race car into a performative work of art.

Just a few weeks after its World Premiere in the French capital at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the newest edition in the storied BMW Art Car collection will compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but will be making a detour to the glorious Lake Como along the way. Using the beautiful backdrops of Lake Como and the eager crowd of the Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d'Este, this is one unveiling we’re very excited to witness!

As part of the exhibition for historic vehicles organised by the BMW Group and the Grand Hotel Villa d'Este, Julie Mehretu herself will present the 20th edition of the BMW Art Car Collection. It will be featured on the grounds of the Villa Erba together with the BMW Art Cars by Alexander Calder from 1975, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein striking 320i from 1977, as well as Andy Warhol’s M1, and many, many more.

New York-based artist Julie Mehretu explains the significance of the project, and specifically the car that was chosen for this landmark creation. “The whole BMW Art Car project is about invention, about imagination, about pushing limits of what can be possible. I don’t think of this car as something you would exhibit. I am thinking of it as something that will race in Le Mans. It’s a performative painting.” 

The collaboration between BMW and Julie Mehretu also includes a joint commitment to a series of PanAfrican Translocal Media Workshops for filmmakers, which will tour various African cities in 2025 and 2026, and will culminate in a major exhibition at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town.

It's true, this may be a piece of rolling art, but it is also a true thoroughbred racer, with glory in its sights, just like Art Cars of decades gone by. Once its showcase at Lake Como has been completed, the BMW M Hybrid V8 racer will head straight to the iconic Le Mans 24hr Endurance race. Where drivers Sheldon van der Linde, Robin Frijns and Germany’s René Rast will enter the 20th BMW Art Car, complete with starting number 20 at the Circuit de la Sarthe on 15 June. 

While every BMW Art Car has its own special piece in the brand’s history, this 20th edition is a true milestone for the collaborations, adding another all-out racer that has been uniquely designed to be set free onto the racetrack. Julie Mehretu perfectly summed up the project and its importance, both as an art piece and Le Mans racer “The BMW Art Car is only completed once the race is over.”