BMW's Arty Automobiles: American Artist Jeff Koons to Decorate German Race Car

US artist Jeff Koons has unveiled his designs for the 17th BMW 'Art Car.' Nobody knows if Koons' go-faster stripes will ensure a win, but the art cars have gone from a sideline to a major public relations exercise for BMW.

Photo Gallery: Pimping BMW's Ride Photos

Earlier this year German auto manufacturer BMW announced that American artist Jeff Koons would be responsible for creating their 17th "Art Car," and this week the artist unveiled his design. It's a digital collage of racing images described by SPIEGEL ONLINE writer Jürgen Pander as a "firework of color and reflective light that gives the impression of explosive dynamics."

Koons will present the finished BMW on June 1 at the Centre Pompidou, Paris' center for contemporary art. Later in June the car will run in the world's oldest sports-car contest, France's 24-hour Le Mans endurance race, then retire in September to the BMW museum in Munich.

"These race cars are like life," Koons said, "they are powerful, and there is a lot of energy ... There is a lot of power under that hood and I want to let my ideas transcend with the car -- it's really to connect with that power."

The tradition of commissioning artists to decorate BMW goes back to 1975, when French auctioneer Hervé Poulain asked the American sculptor Alexander Calder to customize the car he planned to drive in the Le Mans. Early art cars raced without much fanfare, but some of the biggest names in contemporary art have decorated them -- including Roy Lichtenstein in 1977, Andy Warhol in 1979, Robert Rauschenberg in 1986 and Olafur Eliasson's environmentally conscious, hydrogen-powered car in 2009.

Unlike Koons' model, Eliasson's car -- which had its body removed and was shelled in layers of steel mesh, reflective panels, and ice -- did not race on any roads.

The type of car that Koons is decorating, an M3 GT2, has raced well before. But as to whether the new paint job might intimidate other drivers or somehow inspire a win, Koons told the New York Times, "I don't know. I think it would be great if it does."

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