October 18, 2018

The fastest art exhibition in the world by Jonathan Powell

Viewing art is mostly a sedate endeavour, the most dangerous threats the feet of a fellow connoisseur as they step back unexpectedly to view a masterpiece from a distance. In June in Northern France art switches several gears, leaves the gallery behind and becomes genuinely life-threatening. Le Mans is one of the few art performances that lasts 24 hours and takes place at 200 mph. The Le Mans circuit to the west of Paris has hosted the 24 Heures du Mans since 1923. This is a motor race that allows you to watch the start at lunch time on Saturday, then switch channels and see a three hour Russian matinee, go shopping, visit friends, come back, check the race, go to bed, wake up, go to church, eat lunch and still enjoy the final laps with a coffee on Sunday afternoon. Most of the cars in the race have been converted into mobile billboards by sponsors’ slogans, but one stands out as a little bit different. The latest incarnation of the BMW art car raced this year an M3 GT2 in a design by Jeff Koons. The American artist created a design that mimics the blurred colours of a car passing at speed, a bright collection of gonefaster stripes This was the 17th art car that BMW have produced, in a series that goes back to 1975. In case you’re wondering whether they are really art, they have been shown in galleries around the world, including the Guggenheim and the Louvre. So that proves it. Previous models have been designed by Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer and other luminaries of the art world. The most famous was the 1979 Andy Warhol, which also raced at Le Mans. Jeff Koons designed the decor and then handed control over to technicians to print on special vinyl and stick on the car. The only manual addition was his signature added to the side of the car at its Eiffel Tower launch. Warhol was know for his factory production system, but chose to paint directly on the car itself. Using big brushes he gave it a simplistic, matt finish at odds with his cool canvases. He commented that he loved the car, ‘…it’s better than the work of art itself,’ an opinion with which many viewers unfortunately agreed. His car however came 2nd in its class at Le Mans. This year’s Jeff Koons didn’t finish the race. Maybe go-faster stripes don’t have any effect on performance.

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