Andy Warhol's 'Cars' Series Museum Gathers Works of Artist's Unfinished Mercedes Project

When he died in 1987, pop art legend Andy Warhol was working on a series of paintings commissioned by Daimler-Benz to celebrate the car company's 100th anniversary. All of the brightly colored works are now on public display in Vienna for only the second time ever.

By Lasse Hinrichs

In 1986, the German car giant Daimler-Benz commissioned Andy Warhol, the American pop art icon, to create 80 artworks inspired by 20 Mercedes models to celebrate the company's 100th anniversary. Although Warhol reportedly threw himself enthusiastically into the "Cars" project, his unexpected death following gall bladder surgery in February 1987 left it unfinished.

Now, after more than two decades of being inaccessible to the public, the work that Warhol did succeed in finishing on the project -- 35 silkscreen prints and 12 drawings of eight Mercedes models -- is back on public display in its entirety at Vienna's Albertina museum.

The "Andy Warhol. Cars" exhibition also includes other works inspired by Mercedes-Benz vehicles, including drawings and airbrushed paintings by Robert Longo, videos by Silvie Fluery and sculptures by Vincent Szarek. Almost all of the 60 works on display belong to the Daimler's corporate art collection.

Mercedes Milestones Turned into Pop Art

As part of his "Cars" project, Warhol was meant to celebrate milestones in the company's history. The models he used in his works range from the Benz Patent Motorwagen (1886), to the 300SL Gullwing Coupé (introduced in 1954), to the experimental C111 (1970). The acrylic portraits resemble other well-known works, such as his vividly colorful portraits of Marilyn Monroe. Warhol sometimes drew the cars by hand, as he did with the portrait of the 1937 Mercedes-Benz W125 Grand Prix car, and sometimes he printed a single model several times on one canvas, as he did with the Mercedes 400 touring car from 1925.

The first and only other joint, public exhibition of the works was held in Tübingen in 1988. The current exhibition runs until May 16.


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