The history of art cars is an intriguing one. John Lennon had his Rolls-Royce painted by gypsies and many individuals have pimped up their own private vehicles. However, not many cars can be called works of art in their own right. With the BMW i8 Memphis Style Edition, owning an Art Car becomes a reality for a select few customers.
The Latest Art Car From BMW
Car manufacturers love the Milan Furniture Fair and accompanying Design Week. Mini presented an architectural project with New York studio So-Il on the topic of micro homes, Ferrari cooperated with the furniture company Poltrona Frau, and Lamborghini provided the inspiration for a furniture collection by pop designer Karim Rashid in collaboration with wood specialist Riva 1920. Jaguar has presented its new design-SUV Velar among selected design enthusiasts and Lexus has issued a design award.
BMW stayed closer to the theme of cars and its Milan contribution combines nostalgic design with the technology of the future. The Munich-based carmaker, in collaboration with its partner Lapo Elkanns Garage Italia Customs, has presented a special edition of the i3 electric car and the i8 hybrid sports car. Brightly colored in yellow, mint green, purple, red, along with black and white geometric patterns – inside and out, from the mudguard to the dirt mat, from the hubcap to the steering wheel. Memphis style. And that’s the title of the edition: Memphis Style.
The Origins of the Design
Who doesn’t remember the legendary Memphis Style? Furniture, cups, T-shirts… in the 1980s you could hardly avoid it. This colorful style was developed by the ‘Memphis Design Group’ in Milan. And because the not-always-stylish 1980s are totally back in vogue, BMW i and Garage Italia Customs have made a spectacular tribute to this idiosyncratic time on four or eight wheels. Designer Lapo Elkann and his creative hub have designed a BMW i3 and a BMW i8 in Memphis style inside and out.
Memphis was a radical design movement founded in Milan in 1981 by Ettore Sottsass with Michele De Lucchi, Matteo Thun, and Barbara Radice. The Memphis designers turned away from sober functionalism and provoked with a style that was inspired by Pop Art and Art Deco.
The idea for this BMW came from Lapo Elkann, Fiat heir and founder of Garage Italia Customs, a company where the interior and exterior of all kinds of vehicles – boats, helicopters, but above all cars – are totally redesigned according to customer specifications.
The fact that he was able to convince both BMW and its design director Adrian van Hooydonk, as well as Memphis founding member Michele De Lucchi, of the project ’s merit has led to the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream. “The collaboration gave me the opportunity to celebrate my great passion for the Memphis artists,” says Elkann, who has long been collecting Memphis objects. “Memphis was so dynamic and energetic.”
“[It’s] always been one of the biggest inspirations in my life,” says Elkann.
The two Memphis cars are unique pieces and, luckily for us, the extraordinary design can be ordered from Elkann’s garage. First place on the waiting list for the Memphis Edition, by the way, is occupied by Lapo Elkann himself.
The chances of seeing one of these cars on the streets soon – at least in Milan – are good, because the founder of Garage Italia Customs by no means considers the Memphis BMW as a showcase collector’s item: “Cars don’t exist to just stay in the garage, but to be driven.” The price of the funky decoration? Is still to be calculated.
Currently, the BMW i MemphisStyle models are part of special exhibition in BMW World in Munich, Germany.
The Origins of BMW Art Cars
For decades, art cars have been a trademark of the Munich car manufacturer. The fleet of the art cars from BMW has now risen to 19 cars, and they are the most beautiful of all BMW models. And yes, they can drive – believe us! Not just that, a few of them have also been in races. These unique artworks have not been sold to the highest bidder but are instead cherished in a museum.
In 1975, Alexander Calder’s BMW 3.0 CSL marked the beginning of a series created by Hervé Poulain, a lover of car racing and artwork, and BMW Motorsport Director Jochen Neerpasch. One year later, the New Yorker Frank Stella covered a white BMW with black lines. Race cars, designed by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Jenny Holzer, participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The current Art Car from BMW, an up-to-585-hp M6 racing car, was designed by John Baldessari. The car has strong stylistic elements and the artist used only the colors red, yellow, blue and green for the painting. In early 2017, it entered the legendary 24-hour race at Daytona. The M6 was presented to the art world now at the Art Basel in Miami Beach.