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New exhibition combines art and cars

If you happen to be a big fan of cars, especially BMW racing cars, as well as an art and design enthusiast, the exhibition now appearing at the NCP car park on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch is definitely your cup of tea – in the form of Le Mans-class engines combined with truly innovative art.

The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) has joined with BMW, in cooperation with the Mayor of London and the 2012 Festival, to present a collection never seen before in the UK. Begun as an artistic experiment in 1975, the BMW Art Car Collection has grown into a unique and rather fabulous showcase for BMW’s outstanding car design and the ICA’s commitment to artistic inspiration.

The art in this collection is the work of many world-famous artists including Alexander Calder, Sandro Chia, Ken Done, Ernst Fuchs,David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Matazo Kayama, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Esher Mahlangu , Cesar Manrique, M. J. Nelson, A. R. Penck, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol (in no particular order except alphabetically.)

What makes these ‘art cars’ even more fascinating is that a number of them have actually competed in the legendary 24-hour Le Mans race. The Collection originated with an idea on the part of Herve Poulain, a French racing driver who persuaded his artist friend Alexander Calder to design a scale model that would meld the worlds of auto racing and art. The creation that resulted was the granddaddy of the Collection, presently on view (for free) on six levels of the Great Eastern Street car park.

Presented as part of London 2012 Festival, which runs for 12 weeks to 9 September, the Art Cars are museum pieces that dramatically demonstrate the marriage of two kinds of artistry. Their outsides portray the individual artist’s conception of speed or other aspects of race cars; in the case of David Hockney’s, the interior of the car is painted on the outside in exquisite detail. The fact that they are also capable of performing as race cars is thrilling, except perhaps to museum curators who risk the loss of a prized exhibit.

According to Gregor Muir, Executive Director of the ICA, the presentation called Art Drive! is a way for ICA to “reach out” to an audience that may ordinarily have little use for museum-type art. Director Ruth Mackenzie says it will be one of the brightest highlights in the London 2012 Festival


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