Calder BMW Art Car Is on View at the Norton Through July 5

Alexander Calder BMW Art Car (Artist's Proof) is on view at the Norton Museum
Calder Car: Installation of Special Guest: Calder BMW Art Car at the Norton Museum of Art (November 13, 2021 – April 24, 2022). Courtesy of Calder Foundation, New York. © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo: Ashley Kerr

For a couple more weeks, until July 5, the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach has the honor of being the first museum to display a unique automobile designed by Alexander Calder, one of the greatest American sculptors of the 20th century, nearly 50 years after his death.

Commissioned in 1974 by French auctioneer and race car driver Hervé Poulain, Calder completed the BMW Art Car race car, made from a 1974 BMW 3.0 CSL, in 1975, about a year before he died, and it joined the artist’s iconic mobiles as part of his unique legacy and contribution to the history of art.

Calder Car: Installation of Special Guest: Calder BMW Art Car at the Norton Museum of Art (November 13, 2021 – April 24, 2022). Courtesy of Calder Foundation, New York. © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Ashley Kerr.
Calder Car: Installation of Special Guest: Calder BMW Art Car at the Norton Museum of Art (November 13, 2021 – April 24, 2022). Courtesy of Calder Foundation, New York. © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.Photo: Ashley Kerr

As described by the Norton, “Calder devised dynamic forms in bold colors across the car’s wings, bonnet, and roof that recall the artist’s famous mobiles and stabiles, but also his two-dimensional works.” It was a thing of beauty, and plans to recreate the vehicle as a special “Artist’s Proof” were completed in 2021 thanks to a new partnership with the Calder Foundation and BMW Group Classic.

The two groups worked with key members of the first Calder BMW project, including Poulain and Walter Maurer, who finished the technical painting of the original Calder BMW Art Car in 1975. That first car debuted at 24 Heures du Mans (24 Hours of Le Mans), a renowned, annual race held in France and was exhibited widely, including at Calder’s major 1976 retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Calder Car: Installation of Special Guest: Calder BMW Art Car at the Norton Museum of Art (November 13, 2021 – April 24, 2022). Courtesy of Calder Foundation, New York. © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Ashley Kerr.
Calder Car: Installation of Special Guest: Calder BMW Art Car at the Norton Museum of Art (November 13, 2021 – April 24, 2022). Courtesy of Calder Foundation, New York. © 2021 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.Photo: Ashley Kerr

Now the Artist’s Proof recreation of this car, made exactly as the original, “realizes Calder’s dream of creating his own example of the first BMW Art Car, operating as the kinetic work of art that he intended,” the Norton’s website explains. Calder also did a commission for Braniff International Airways, painting a full-size Douglas DC-8-62 four-engine jet as a “flying canvas” just a couple of years before he completed the BMW.

Calder’s car is the first of 19 BMW Art Cars created over the years for both racing and display. Other artists include Hamptonites Frank Stella, who created the second in the series in 1976 (also using a 3.0 CSL), Roy Lichtenstein who designed the next with a BMW 320 in 1977, and Andy Warhol who used an M1 Group 4 in 1979.

The Norton Museum of Art is the first U.S. museum to show the Calder BMW Art Car (Artist’s Proof) from 2021, but it will continue touring after it leaves on July 5.

Art and auto enthusiasts alike will want to visit the Norton’s Maurer Lobby where the car is on view before it heads for the next checkered flag in its path.

Visit norton.org to learn more about Alexander Calder’s BMW Art Car, and find numerous other works of art on view in various exhibitions at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, 1450 South Dixie Highway.

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