BMW’s latest art car is the first to incorporate augmented reality.
The German automaker has collaborated with famous artists for over 40 years to transform race cars into works of art. The artistry of its latest entry, however, is not immediately apparent to the naked eye.
Chinese multimedia artist Cao Fei used augmented and virtual reality to transform a BMW M6 GT3 race car into a stunning light show. Viewers can experience the art installation by downloading an iOS app.
Fei also released a short video clip, titled “Unmanned,” as part of the overall multimedia experience. The video shows a man in traditional Chinese clothing using VR to create beams of light from his fingertips.
Fei, who spent three years working on the project, is the first Chinese artist to create an art car for BMW.
Scroll down to see the 17 other art cars that came before Fei’s work:
Aaron Brown contributed to an earlier version of this post.
BMW's Art Cars program began in 1975 and was spearheaded by Herve Poulain, a 35-year-old French race car driver and auctioneer whose two passions in life were art and racing.
While Poulain was just an amateur racer, he aspired to race in the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is an annual 24 hour race hosted in France each June. He managed to convince BMW to sponsor him and to persuade the American artist Alexander Calder to paint the car before the race, pictured above.
Several world-class artists have contributed to the BMW Art Car program since Calder created his masterpiece.
This 3.0 CSL was designed by American artist Frank Stella's and raced at the 1976 24 Hours of Le Mans. The design was supposed to resemble a blueprint.
On Roy Lichetenstein's 1977 320i Group 5 Art Car, the designs are supposed to represent roads, sunlight, and the sky.
Robert Rauschenberg's 635CSI Art Car was first shown off to the world at the BMW Gallery in New York in 1986. At that unveiling he said 'I think mobile museums are great. For me, this car is a dream come true.'
The 1989 Ken Done M3 Group A Art Car was painted to represent the artist's birthplace, Australia, and the beaches and different scenery that exists there.
Cesar Manrique tried to emphasise a sensation of speed through his work on the outside of the 1990 730i Art Car.
Esther Mahlangu was the first woman to design a BMW art car. Hers was this 1991 525i. The designs on the car were influenced by artwork created by South African Ndebele tribe people.
Sandro Chio painted his 1992 3 Series racing Art Car to be 'Like a mirror, it confronts the people who look at it.'
David Hockney's 1995 850csi Art Car was designed to give the car a see-through feel. If you look at the side, you can see the outline of a driver and a steering wheel, and in the backseat, a Dachshund leaning up against the seat.
Jenny Holzer's 1999 V12 LMR Art Car stays true to BMW's traditional blue and white colour scheme. Lettering on the car is reflective so that during the day, blue from the sky paints the words to match the classic BMW colouring.
Olafur Eliasson's 2007 H2R Art Car is hydrogen powered, like the car it's built around, but has an extremely reshaped exterior. Eliasson layered the outside of the car with ice to 'bring together art, design, social, and environmental issues.'
Jeff Koons' 2010 M3 GT2 racing Art Car raced in the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans. Koons wanted to reflect the amount of power the car puts out through his art.
Lastly, Cao Fei painted the M6 GT3 in a non-reflective black so it would mesh easily into a digital world. You can download BMW Art Car #18 in the app store to experience Fei's multimedia installation.
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