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

Interesting | May 14th, 2011 by 5
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It was the French auctioneer and racing driver Hervé Poulain who first had the idea of asking an artist to paint a car. Taking up …

It was the French auctioneer and racing driver Hervé Poulain who first had the idea of asking an artist to paint a car. Taking up this initiative in 1975, the American Alexander Calder painted a BMW racing car, thus laying the foundation stone. The Art Car experiment was soon continued: a year after Calder, the New York artist Frank Stella covered a BMW with his typical grid-like pattern. He was followed by a series of pop artists: Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. Apart from Rauschenberg’s Art Car, all these took part in the traditional Le Mans 24-hour race, some of them enjoying remarkable success.

Now the very rare BMW M1 by Frank Stella will go up for auction this August after a 12-year residency at the famed Guggenheim Museum in New York. The estimate sell price is said to be around $450,000-600,000.

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Overall, BMW commissioned 16 art cars, the last one came from Jeff Koons in 2010 based on the M3 GT2 race car. The Fran Stella art car was commissioned in 1979 by world champion racing driver Peter Gregg. Stella treated it like one of his paintings, using a style consistent with the criss-crossing lines in his Polar Coordinates series of works.

The car goes to the Quail Lodge in Carmel, CA this August and is currently being shown outside Bonhams’ office at 56th Street and Madison Avenue in New York.

Press Release

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.

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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: