BMW unveils M Hybrid V8 Art Car ahead of 24 Hours of Le Mans

South African Sheldon van der Linde to race in BMW Art Car at 24 Hours of Le Mans

The 20th BMW Art Car has been unveiled ahead of this weeks 24 of Le Mans. The internationally renowned New York artist Julie Mehretu designed the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8, which will compete in this iconic motorsport event as a performative painting based on one of her artworks.

BMW M Motorsport works drivers Sheldon van der Linde, Robin Frijns and Rene Rast will enter the 20th BMW Art Car with start number 20 at the Circuit de la Sarthe on 15 June.

Having South African Sheldon van der Linde behind the wheel, continues the long history of South Africa and BMW Art Cars that started when Ester Mahlangu was chosen to decorate a BMW 525i in 1991.

“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,” said Sheldon van der Linde.

“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 Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG.

“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,” explained Mehretu.

Space, movement and energy have always been central motifs to Mehretu’s work. For the design of BMWs 20th Art Car, she transformed a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional representation for the first time, and in the process succeeded in bringing dynamism into form. The design was based on 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 as the artist’s major retrospective at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice and will subsequently become part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in new York, 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 black markings characteristic of Mehretu’s work.

“In 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 the painting and becomes affected by it? 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,” said Mehretu.

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.

Ahead of race day, Mehretu’s Art Car made an appearance at the Concorso d’Eleganza where it was featured alongside BMW Art Cars by Alexander Calder (1975), Frank Stella (1976), Roy Lichtenstein (1977), And Warhol (1979), Jenny Holzer (1999) and Jeff Koons (2010), all of which also made their race debut at Le Mans.