The first BMW Art Car dates back to 1975 with Alexander Calder’s famous 3.0 CSL, but it wasn’t until 1991 that a woman penned a vehicle for the Art Car series. This 5 Series Sedan, which was the 12th car to receive the artsy treatment, served as an homage to African culture. It started out in life as an E34 in the 525i specification before Esther Mahlangu turned it into a piece of art.

After more than 30 years, the #12 BMW Art Car is heading back to South Africa for the first time as a significant part of a new exhibition called “Then I Knew I Was Good at Painting’: Esther Mahlangu. A Retrospective.” This represents a joint effort between The Iziko Museums of South Africa and BMW to celebrate Esther Mahlangu’s career spanning more than half a century.

The exhibition is set to run from February 18 until August 11 before embarking on a world tour. Its next stop will be at the Wits Art Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, before reaching the United States at the beginning of 2026. Besides the colorful 5 Series, embellished to resemble “how my tribe decorates their houses,” as explained by the 88-year-old artist, the showcase will feature more than 100 artworks. These will be complemented by historic photographs and a short film.

The upcoming #20 BMW Art Car will also be designed by a woman, as Julie Mehretu is utilizing her talent on the M Hybrid V8 endurance race car. The world premiere is scheduled to take place before June 2024, with Mehretu having commenced the project last year on a 1/5-scale model before transitioning to the full-size car near the end of 2023.

Other BMW Art Cars designed by women have included the 1999 BMW V12 LMR by Jenny Holzer and the 2017 M6 GT3 by Cao Fei.

Source: BMW