Julie Mehretu’s BMW Art Car celebrates its world premiere at the Center Pompidou in Paris.

Paris/Munich. BMW’s 20th Art Car is presented to the public for the first time today at the Center Pompidou in Paris. Designed by renowned New York-based contemporary artist Julie Mehretu, the project transforms the BMW M Hybrid V8 racing car into a performance art piece, continuing a long tradition of BMW Art Cars and competitive racing. Just weeks after its world premiere in the French capital, the latest edition of the historic BMW Art Car collection will compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“The entire BMW Art Car project is about invention, about imagination, about pushing the limits of what can be possible. I don’t think of this car as something you would display. I’m thinking of it as something that will race at Le Mans. It is a performative painting. My BMW Art Car was created in close collaboration with engineering and motorsport teams,” says Julie Mehretu. “The BMW Art Car won’t be finished until the race is over.”

The collaboration between BMW and Julie Mehretu also includes a joint commitment to a series of pan-African translocal media workshops for filmmakers, which will tour several African cities in 2025 and 2026, culminating in a major exhibition at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town.

“BMW Art Cars are an essential part of our global cultural commitment. For almost 50 years we have been collaborating with artists who are as fascinated by mobility and design as they are by technology and motor sports. Julie Mehretu’s vision for a racing car is an extraordinarily strong contribution to our BMW Art Cars series,” said Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “Julie Mehretu has created more than an incredible Art Car. Her ideas gave us the impetus to expand the cultural commitment of our Art Cars to promote the creativity of young artists in Africa.”

A performative painting is created.
Space, movement and energy have always been central motifs in Julie Mehretu’s work. For the design of BMW’s 20th Art Car, she transformed a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional representation for the first time, thereby giving shape to dynamism. Julie Mehretu used the vocabulary of color and form from her monumental painting “Everywhen” (2021-2023) as a starting point for her design. The work is currently on display in the artist’s major retrospective at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice and will later become part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, to which it has been donated.

Its abstract visual form is the result of digitally altered photographs, which are layered with dot grids, neon-colored veils, and the black marks characteristic of Mehretu’s work. “In the studio where I had the model of the BMW M Hybrid V8, I was sitting in front of the painting and I thought: What if this car seemed to pass through that painting and be affected by it?” says Julie Mehretu. . “The idea was to make a remix, a mix of the painting. I kept seeing that paint dripping inside the car. Even the kidneys of the car inhaled the paint.”

BMW Art Cars with Le Mans history meet at the Concorso d’Eleganza.
The fusion of image and vehicle was carried out with the help of 3D mapping, with which the motif was transferred to the contours of the vehicle. The elaborate foiling allows the completely designed BMW M Hybrid V8 to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. BMW Motorsport drivers Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), Robin Frijns (NED) and René Rast (GER) will take part in the 20th BMW Art Car with the number 20 at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 15. Like them, Julie Mehretu is also looking forward to the race: “I went to see the BMW M Hybrid V8 race at Daytona and this experience was overwhelming. Designers, engineers, aerodynamicists and many other creative minds are working to take this vehicle to the extreme. When I go out on the track now, many dreams will come true.”

Before race day, Julie Mehretu’s BMW Art Car will make an appearance at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este on Lake Como on its way to Le Mans. As part of the exhibition of historic vehicles organized 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 presented on the grounds of Villa Erba alongside the BMW Art Cars of Alexander Calder (1975), Frank Stella (1976), Roy Lichtenstein (1977), Andy Warhol (1979), Jenny Holzer (1999) and Jeff Koons. (2010), which also made its racing debut at Le Mans. Julie Mehretu will discuss the creation of BMW’s 20th Art Car in an artist talk with Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Group Design Director, on Sunday 26 May 2024.

Inspiration for Young Artists: Pan-African Translocal Media Workshops.
The collaboration between BMW and Julie Mehretu was conceived from the beginning beyond the automobile. It will culminate after the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a project for emerging artists from the African continent: The PanAfrican Translocal Media Workshops. Together, the partners focus on creative potential across the African continent, where the BMW Group has been contributing to social responsibility with educational projects for more than 50 years.

Julie Mehretu and Mehret Mandefro, producer, writer and Emmy-nominated co-founder of the Realness Institute, which works to strengthen the media ecosystem in Africa, will host workshops in various African cities and regions throughout 2025. The goal of the project is to provide a space for artists and filmmakers to collaborate and exchange ideas. These gatherings will provide a forum for artists to develop new pathways toward a just civic future in their respective communities.

The translocal Pan-African workshop series will visit the cities of Dakar (Senegal), Marrakech (Morocco), Kigali (Rwanda), Lagos (Nigeria) and Cape Town (South Africa). The results of the workshops will be presented together with the 20th BMW Art Car at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art in Cape Town in the first half of 2026.

In this way, the BMW Group continues to consistently support cinema and creative talent for decades: from the short film series ‘The Hire’ and the association with the Cannes International Film Festival to the acquisition of works by students of art in the neighborhoods of the company’s plants around the world.

The artist.
Julie Mehretu is a world-renowned American painter. She was born in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, in 1970. She and her family moved to the United States at the age of seven. She lives and works in New York City and Berlin.

Mehretu’s practice in painting, drawing and printmaking engages the viewer in a dynamic visual articulation of contemporary experience, a depiction of social behavior and the psychogeography of space through the exploration of palimpsests of history, from geological time to a modern phenomenology. of the social.

Mehretu received her bachelor’s degree from Kalamazoo College in Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, and completed her MFA with honors from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1997. Mehretu has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Prize (2005), the Berlin Prize: Guna S. Mundheim Fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin (2007), and the U.S. Department of State Medal of Arts Award (2015). A Mid-Career Study of Mehretu’s Work recently toured to LACMA (Los Angeles), High Museum (Atlanta), The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), and The Walker Museum of Art (Minneapolis) from 2019 to 2023 His largest European solo exhibition to date titled “Set” Opened on March 17, 2024 at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice.

Mehretu is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Design. Her global representative is Marian Goodman Gallery. She also exhibits at White Cube, London, and Carlier Gebauer, Berlin.

Statement from the jury of the 20th BMW Art Car.
Julie Mehretu was unanimously selected in 2018 by a jury of senior representatives from the international art world to design BMW’s 20th Art Car. The panel includes renowned curators and museum directors from several countries, including Koyo Kouoh, executive director and chief curator of Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town; Hans-Ulrich Obrist, artistic director of the Serpentine Galleries in London; and Cecilia Alemani, Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Director and Chief Curator, High Line Art, New York.

On the occasion of the world premiere of the BMW Art Car designed by Julie Mehretu in Paris, the jury members published the following statement: “We are delighted with Julie’s BMW Art Car! Okwui Enwezor had already coined the phrase ‘Dynamism in form’ during our judging session and nothing applies better to her BMW M Hybrid V8 race car. Julie’s first three-dimensional work combines her aesthetic and formal language with the idea of ​​error and blur, turning speed into a fierce visceral experience. and competitive in racing, as it is ambitious as a creative playground of the imagination. It not only pays homage to the art cars of Jenny Holzer and Frank Stella, but also weaves a visual web that stretches from Mad Max to graffiti. and street art that is unique within the BMW Art Cars series.”

The BMW M Hybrid V8.
The canvas of BMW’s 20th Art Car is the BMW M Hybrid V8. The new racing car from BMW M GmbH features a hybrid electric drive system with approximately 640 hp, powered by a 4.0-liter V8 engine supported by an electric motor (maximum speed: up to 345 km/h or 215 mph, depending of the career). track layout).

During the official races of this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship, the BMW M Hybrid V8 will face high-calibre competition in the Hypercars category. The car will also compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, being the first BMW M Motorsport prototype to do so since the BMW V12 LMR, which won the classic race in 1999.

The BMW art car collection.
Renowned artists from all over the world have been participating in the BMW Art Car program since 1975. The initiative arose from French racing driver and art lover Hervé Poulain, who, together with then BMW motorsports director Jochen Neerpasch, asked to his artist friend Alexander Calder to paint a car. The result was a BMW 3.0 CSL, which competed in the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans and became a crowd favorite.

This is how the BMW Art Car Collection was born. In the following years, renowned artists such as Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Esther Mahlangu, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Ólafur Elíasson and Jeff Koons enriched the collection with more BMW Art Cars, each with their own style. . style. More recently, Chinese multimedia artist Cao Fei and American conceptual artist John Baldessari each presented a BMW Art Car based on the BMW M6 GT3 and GTLM respectively in 2016 and 2017. The BMW Art Cars are not only displayed at home, the BMW Museum. in Munich, but they are also touring around the world as part of international exhibitions.