The 20th BMW Art Car, designed by contemporary art luminary Julie Mehretu, was unveiled Tuesday at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Following tradition, the BMW M Hybrid V8 race car will take part in the famous 24-hour endurance-focused race Le Mans, the oldest such race in the world.

Mehretu’s collaboration with BMW marks the first time the artist’s characteristic abstractions, which are made from digitally altered photographs superimposed onto several layers of dot grids, have been applied to a three-dimensional surface. The aesthetic for the M Hybrid’s design closely following Mehretu’s monumental painting Everywhen (2021-2023).

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“In the 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 that painting and becomes affected by it,” Julie Mehretu said in a statement. “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.”

In tandem with the race car’s launch, Mehretu and BMW announced a  joint commitment to a “series of Pan-African Translocal Media Workshops” for filmmakers, to be held in various African cities including Dakar, Marrakesh, and the artist’s hometown, Addis Ababa, in 2025 and 2026, culminating in a major exhibition at Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town.

The first BMW Art Car was designed by Alexander Calder in 1975. Subsequently, distinguished artists from Frank Stella to Esther Mahlangu to David Hockney have participated in the Art Car program. 

An exhibition of Mehretu’s work opened at the Palazzo Grassi from on 17 March for the Venice Biennale and will be on view through January 6, 2025. Titled “Ensemble” it is the largest exhibition of Mehretu’s work to date in Europe. Last year her 2001 work Untitled sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong $9.32 million (with fees), an auction record for an African-born artist.