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Review: BMW Art Drive! at the NCP Car Park Great Eastern Street

By on 15/08/2012

Street art was the first of the modern arts to take art out of the galleries and make it part of the public space. The urban landscape and surrounding environment becomes a part of the art piece itself

The has been a recent movement of taking art out of the galleries and translating it into the public space. The recent BT Art Box Exhibition where various artists redecorated phone boxes and were put around London was hugely successful. The original BMW Art Drive was the first of this form of art expression.

Art Drive was in collaboration with The Institute of Contemporary Arts and its location tied in perfectly with the theme – it was held in a multistory carpark in the middle or Shoreditch.

But what exactly is the BMW Art Drive? The Art Drive started in 1975 where BMW commissioned artists to redesign their automobiles turning their cars into precious one-offs. Since then Art Drive has spanned 17 different cars and has been taken all over the world. The collection began in 1975 when Hervé Poulain, a French racing driver, invited Alexander Calder to design a racing car to compete in the Le Mans 24-hour race. Since then other cars have been commissioned by artists such as Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Ernst Fuchs, Robert Rauschenberg, M.J Nelson, Ken Done, Matazo Kayama, Cesar Manrique, Jeff Koons, A.R Penck, Esher Mahlangu, Sandro Chia, Jenny Holzer and David Hockney.

As you step into the NCP car park you are taken into a car lift up to the 6th floor  where the first of the cars are displayed, the marriage between the car park and the cars is perfect. It also gave an opportunity to get truly up close to the car and see the intricate details on them. On the final floor were video screen set up with video interviews of the artists explaining their inspiration for their pieces such as Andy Warhol saying “I have tried to give a vivid depiction of speed. If a car is really fast, all contours and colours will become blurred”. The cars covered many forms of art such as tribal, pop art and contemporary. It was Jeff Koons BMW M3 GT2 which was the most popular of the exhibition and amazing symphony of colours.

David Hockney – BMW 850CSi
Roy Lichenstein – BMW 320
Andy Warhol – BMW M1
Jeff Koons – BMW M3 GT2

The BMW Art Drive experience didn’t end there. During the last few days of the exhibition they held an open air cinema on the roof top of the car park. They showed a selection of movies including Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and the hip hop classic Wildstyle.

I caught the viewing of Wildstyle. It was pretty amazing being on top of this multistory car park overlooking the City of London on a perfect summers evening.

Believe its or not it was my first time I had ever seen Wildstyle (being such a hip hop fanatic). What a movie it was – it captured in documentary style the art of graffiti writing & hip-hop in early 80s NYC, the challenges of artists at the time. The film is about NYC’s most notorious graffiti artist named Zoro, his passion for his art, relationships with other writers and his personal life as he struggles to make graffiti a respected art form. Full of hip hop, breaking, turntablism and MCing the movie is a snapshot of 80s NYC.

The movie perfectly wrapped up the exhibition and its subject matter of taking art into the urban space tied in perfectly with the exhibition.

With art being taken out of the gallery and into the urban space hopefully the art cars and other exhibitions of this form will be brought back to London very soon.