East Africa

Julie Mehretu To Design 20th BMW Art Car In Collaboration With Guggenheim

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Julie Mehretu, a world-renowned Ethiopian artist will create the 20th BMW Art Car in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum. Yes, you heard it right! The announcement was recently made by the German luxury vehicle manufacturer at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The news was met with so much joy as this is the first-ever collaboration with an African artist by BMW since 1991.

An international jury of museum directors and curators selected Mehretu’s work, amongst other artists. Her work is renowned for its intricate and layered abstract landscapes inspired by various historical references. As a result, Mehretu has been granted full creative autonomy to design the next addition to BMW’s collection of “rolling sculptures.”

Stadia I, 2004. Ink and acrylic on canvas. 271.8 × 355.6 cm. Image courtesy of Artsy.

The BMW M Hybrid V8 Art Car designed by Mehretu will participate in the 24-Hour race of Le Mans in June 2024. It will continue a tradition that has captivated both motorsport enthusiasts and art lovers for nearly half a century. Since 1975, BMW has collaborated with famous artists such as Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Cao Fei, and John Baldessari to create art cars for racing.

Expressing her enthusiasm, Mehretu said, “I’ve loved cars for most of my life, as toys, as objects, as possibilities. It is from that space that I’m excited to be working on the next BMW Art Car more than anything. The thrill of the speed, the 24-Hour race of Le Mans, and the potential for innovation in hybrid and electric vehicles as future modes of transportation and motorsport.” – Forbes Magazine

However, this project goes beyond merely adorning an elite vehicle. Mehretu, together with Mehret Mandefro, co-founder of the Realness Institute, will host gatherings in eight African cities over nine months. The aim is to encourage artists to interact and collaborate in trans-local ways, fostering authentic voices in African filmmaking. This initiative is based on the Exodus Media Workshop (EMW), to explore the interdependent relationship between image-making, representation, and the media.


In 2025, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town will present the results of this creative collaboration alongside the 20th BMW Art Car.

According to Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and a member of the international jury, Mehretu is the ideal artist for this project. Grynsztejn said, “Julie Mehretu is the perfect artist for this early 21st century. To merge her work with the shape and form of a speeding vehicle is really an alignment of perfection. For years, Julie has painted speed and for a long time worked very successfully at scale. She has an understanding of space and speed that is a perfect partner to the BMW Art Car.”

Stadia II, 2004. Ink and acrylic on canvas. 272.73 × 355.92 × 5.71 cm. Image courtesy of Artsy.

Ilka Horstmeier, a member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, expressed her excitement about the collaboration. She stated, “The BMW Art Car Collection is a central element of our global cultural commitment, which has been in place for more than 50 years. The combination of technology and art, of design and motorsport, sparks a timeless fascination. I have admired Julie Mehretu’s work for many years. I particularly take pleasure in the fact that our cooperation will generate a lasting cultural impact. This is especially in Africa, extending beyond the vehicle she has designed. With Julie Mehretu at the helm, the 20th BMW Art Car promises to be a remarkable fusion of art, design, and the thrill of speed. The collaboration leaves an indelible mark on the cultural landscape.

Author

Rose Mwikali Musyoki is a creative writer from Nairobi, Kenya. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance from the University of Embu, Kenya, and is the founder of Bloom Inc, an art startup in Kenya. Currently, she works as a writer for Art News Africa.

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