The legendary conceptual artist puts his mark on a BMW M6 GTLM race car as part of an ongoing series by the German automaker
John Baldessari's BMW M6 GTLM race car.
BMW’s Art Car series is a 40-year-old program that gives blue-chip artists the opportunity to create permanent rolling sculptures out of BMW street or racing vehicles. The list of participants is a Who’s Who of the contemporary art world: Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, Jenny Holzer, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hockney. Some of these vehicles have raced, some have driven on the streets. Some are simply, like most art, beautiful and compelling. Does your Linda Yuskavage circle a track at 190 m.p.h.?
The latest vehicle in this series, the 19th, has been commissioned from the venerable California conceptual artist, and CalArts and UCLA professor, 85-year-old John Baldessari, and was just unveiled this week at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach cultural bacchanal.
“It seems that cars and people are joined at the hip, and I guess I’m not excluded from that. It seems part of this package,” Baldessari says in an exclusive one-on-one interview after the unveiling. “Especially in Los Angeles. You’re lost if you don’t drive.” The vehicle is a BMW M6 GTLM race car, which will compete in exactly one excruciating event, the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race at the end of January, before it is retired to the museum circuit. This fits, sort of, with elements of Baldessari’s past. “I was into street racing when I was young,” he admits dryly. “Building cars, racing, working with people who could implement my ideas.” But when asked if he sees this kind of creation as a precursor to his work as an artist, he demurs. “I don’t think so. They’re separate things." Though, he adds, “As a culture, we’re not fascinated by slowness. We’re fascinated by speed.”
Baldessari applies paint to the roof of the BMW.
The car incorporates one of Baldessari’s most iconic motifs: the colored circle. The dots have been used by Baldessari on images appropriated from film, television, and advertising in a way that at once enunciates and undermines their visibility, in time growing big enough to cancel out whole people or scenes. Though as an object, the BMW Art Car is undeniable and cannot be disguised or dissembled, the dots serve a similar dual purpose.
The 2016 BMW M6 GTLM prominently features one of Baldessari’s most iconic motifs: the colored circle.
“It’s transferred as a kind of dermatology that goes on, a beautification,” Baldessari says of his signature circles. “One interesting factoid is that on top of the car there’s a red dot, and the reason for that was so it can be seen from the air. I just assumed that that was part of the modern world, that there would be helicopters hovering about.”