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Jeff Koons calls it his “dream car”, and the artwork on “8 X Jeff Koons” is suitably flash and colorful, with a certain minimalism and a nod to pop art and comic book culture. All of which is in keeping with the work of the celebrated American artist. Only 99 artist editions of the M850i Gran Coupé, on which the car is based, are planned and have been revealed virtually on the occasion of Frieze Art Los Angeles this week. BMW is a long-term partner of the art fair and this latest project helps celebrates over 50 years of sponsorship of arts and ideas.
With his often oversized sculptures and installations, sparkling with bold colors and shiny surfaces, and with strong references to themes and subjects from popular culture, the artwork of Jeff Koons is instantly recognizable. And although he is less overtly provocative these days (his “Made in Heaven” series from the 1990s spring to mind), he remains an important figure in the contemporary art world.
This will be the second time Koons has partnered with BMW. His 2010 M3 GT2 “Art Car” was a riot of colors and went on to perform at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. I recall meeting the artist at the Pompidou Center in Paris before the car took to the tracks. Then, Koons wanted to express performance. He said, “when the car isn’t racing, when you walk around this art car, it has to make references to the power underneath the hood.”
Koons has been working on this latest “8 X Jeff Koons” project for over a year. “I wanted to create special edition BMW for a long time,” he says. This time his focus is less on speed and more in keeping with today’s concerns — namely the art and craft of creation. “I was thinking very intensely about it,” he explains. “What is the essence of the 8 Series Gran Coupé? What is the essence of power? How to create something that exemplifies all the energy of the 8 Series that is also able to touch upon the human element?”
The “8X Jeff Koons” cars are now being produced at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing in Germany with only four made each week. This is partly to maintain exclusivity but it is also a reflection of the complexity of their creation. For instance, it takes over 200 hours to layer and apply the unique color combination on the body, which I’m told involves some eleven different shades ranging from blue to silver and from yellow to black.
Inside, the strong colorful scheme continues adding an artistic edge to the plush material and soft leather surfaces. The seats are covered in superhero shades of strong red and blue, which also references the colors of BMW’s high-performance M line in which the “8 X Jeff Koons” belongs.
Geometric patterns on the exterior follow the sporty Gran Coupé’s intricate body curves. The exploding color at the rear, meanwhile, is a nod and a wink to the artist’s 2010 BMW Art Car. Lastly, the “POP!” graphic on each side, as well as the vapor thrust imagery, symbolize the power and speed of this car. The artist explains: “On the car, the lines are getting bigger on their journey from the hood towards the trunk, creating a sense of forward movement just as the ‘POP!’ and the vapor thrust design elements do.”
Each of the 99 “8 X Jeff Koons” cars will be delivered with signed certificate by Jeff Koons. There will be an additional individual vehicles identification numbers, while the artist has also lent his signature to the dust jacket of the driver’s manual and the cup holder lid inside the car.
Only a couple of months ago while in Florence, I happened across “Jeff Koons. Shine” at Palazzo Strozzi, which was hosting an exhibition of the artist’s work from the mid-70s on. As the title suggests, the show grapples with the key principle in the idea of “shine” (and its German “schein”, as in appearance) and what the curators saw as the artist questioning our relationship with reality and the very idea of a work of art — a subject Koons was keen to explore even with his most controversial 90s work.
I stood starring at my own distorted image reflected on “Balloon Monkey (Blue)”. The shiny and oversize, almost sinister comical installation echoed and reflected the Covid masked crowds and the surrounding renaissance architecture. It certainly made me questioned our present reality.
Koons conceived “8 X Jeff Koons” during the darkest hours of the pandemic. “The blue color resembles the vastness of space and I like the idea of the car being a global car,” says the artist. “What matters is how we relate to each other and our awareness of everything we’re surrounded by. For the driver and the passengers, there is a heightened sense of pleasure. This is what my car has to offer.” He continues. “It is sporty and flashy as well as minimalist and conceptual. I can’t wait to drive it and ride in it, and I hope that people will enjoy the Gran Coupé just as much as I do.”
“8 X Jeff Koons” is on virtual display at the Frieze Viewing Room and will be physically revealed at Christie's in New York on 4 April 2022. Meanwhile, priced at $350,000, the cars are available to order via email@example.com.