World premiere in Paris: The BMW M Hybrid V8 Art Car by Julie Mehretu for the 24 Hours of Le Mans [Gallery]


The 20th BMW Art Car celebrated its world premiere on Tuesday evening at the Centre Pompidou in the French capital, Paris. The internationally renowned New York artist Julie Mehretu designed the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8, which will compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA) on 15th/16th June, as a “performative painting” based on one of her artworks. The event, attended by several hundred invited guests, was also attended by the artist, as well as Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, and Ilka Horstmeier, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Human Resources and Real Estate.

“The BMW Art Cars are an essential part of our global cultural commitment. For almost 50 years, we have been collaborating with artists who are just as fascinated by mobility and design as they are by technology and motorsports. Julie Mehretu’s vision for a racing car is an extraordinarily strong contribution to our BMW Art Cars series,” said Zipse.

Mehretu explained her approach: “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 at Le Mans. It’s a performative painting. My BMW Art Car was created in close collaboration with motorsport and engineering teams. It is only completed once the race is over.”

A performative painting is created.

Space, movement and energy have always been central motifs in Mehretu’s work. For the design of the 20th BMW art car, she transformed a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional representation for the first time, with which she succeeded in bringing dynamism into form. Mehretu used the colour and form vocabulary of her monumental painting “Everywhen” (2021 – 2023) as a starting point for her design. The work is currently on view at the artist’s major retrospective at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice (ITA) and will subsequently become part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York (USA), to which it has been gifted.

Its abstract visual form results from digitally altered photographs, which are superimposed in several layers of dot grids, neon-coloured veils and the black markings characteristic of Mehretu’s work. “In the studio where I had the model of the BMW M Hybrid V8 I was just sitting in front of the painting and I thought ‘What would happen if this car seemed to go through that painting and becomes affected by it?’” Mehretu said. “The idea was to make a remix, a mash-up of the painting. I kept seeing that painting kind of dripping into the car. Even the kidneys of the car inhaled the painting.”

BMW Art Cars with Le Mans history come together at the Concorso d’Eleganza.

The fusion of image and vehicle was realised with the help of 3D mapping, with which the motif was transferred to the contours of the vehicle. The elaborate foiling allows for the fully designed BMW M Hybrid V8 to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. BMW M Motorsport works drivers Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), Robin Frijns (NED) and René Rast (GER) will enter the 20th BMW Art Car with start number 20 at the Circuit de la Sarthe on 15th June. Like them, Mehretu is also eagerly awaiting the race: “I went to see the BMW M Hybrid V8 race at Daytona, and that experience was overwhelming. Designers, engineers, aerodynamicists and so many other creative minds are working on taking this vehicle to its extreme. When it goes out on the racetrack now, so many dreams will be fulfilled.”

Leading up to race day, Mehretu’s BMW Art Car will make an appearance at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este in Lake Como (ITA) on its way to Le Mans. As part of the exhibition for historic vehicles organised by the BMW Group and the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este, Mehretu herself will present the 20th edition of the BMW Art Car Collection. It will be featured in the grounds of Villa Erba together with the BMW Art Cars by Alexander Calder (1975), Frank Stella (1976), Roy Lichtenstein (1977), Andy Warhol (1979), Jenny Holzer (1999) and Jeff Koons (2010), which also made their race debuts at Le Mans.

Franciscus van Meel (CEO of BMW M GmbH)

“Our return to Le Mans is spectacular for several reasons. For the first time since our victory in 1999, exactly 25 years ago, we are competing with the BMW M Hybrid V8 in the top class of the world’s biggest endurance race. We are facing the highest-class competition currently available in racing in the Hypercar category. With more than 300,000 spectators, the 24 Hours of Le Mans also provides an overwhelming stage for the launch of the 20th BMW Art Car by Julie Mehretu. It stands in a great tradition of rolling works of art that have competed at Le Mans. I find the design fantastic and can’t wait to see how it will captivate all participants at this mega-event.”

Andreas Roos (Head of BMW M Motorsport)

“The deployment of the 20th BMW Art Car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is as much an honour for us as it is a motivation. We at BMW M Motorsport are all aware of the enormous significance that BMW Art Cars have in the brand’s racing history. Our goal for the weekend is for the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 to attract attention, not only with its great design, but also with its strong performance on the racetrack. Robin Frijns, René Rast, and Sheldon van der Linde are outstanding drivers who have already proved this season that they can fight for top results in the Hypercar class. We have prepared as best as possible for the season highlight and are determined to present ourselves and our cars in top form.”

Vincent Vosse (Team Principal BMW M Team WRT)

“It is an honour for BMW M Team WRT to be part of a project with such prestige. We have never done anything like this before, and it will be something very special to deploy this wonderful work of art at Le Mans. We will give everything to ensure that the 20th BMW Art Car finishes the race where it belongs.”

Sheldon van der Linde

“First of all it’s a huge honour to be selected as one of the drivers for the 20th edition of the art car at my very first Le Mans 24 hour in our Hypercar. I love the bold graffiti look that Julie Mehretu has gone for with our art car. I’m a huge fan of abstract art and have tried to incorporate her style into a one-off helmet design I will have for Le Mans. If the car is as fast and bold as it looks, we’re in for a very good weekend.”

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