Car as canvas: Banksy, Warhol and more turn autos into artworks

"Countless works of art on wheels have since been created. Why?"


“As early as 1909, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti dreamed up a racing car with a “bodywork adorned with large tubes resembling snakes with fiery breath,” as the founder of Futurism put it in his manifesto.

For others, the car was not only a work of art in its own right but also a canvas. About 100 years ago, the French painter Sonia Delaunay-Terk decorated a 1920 Unic Tourer with geometric abstractions.

“The idea was to use the large surface of a vehicle as a communication platform and to enhance this surface with content,” says Paolo Tumminelli, a design professor at the technical university in Cologne.

Experts estimate the M1 designed by Andy Warhol alone to be worth over 30 million euros ($35.53 million) – if it were sold.

However, the individual pieces are in the BMW Museum and are only lent out for special exhibitions worldwide. Lately, BMW has allowed fans to see the Art Cars from all sides using the augmented reality app Acute Art.

And yet not every extravagantly painted car is a valuable work of art or a collector’s item. It’s important to distinguish between cars as works of art from famous artists and cars with unusual paint jobs.

“Art Cars created by famous artists with an artistic claim are very valuable,” says the managing director of the market analyst Classic Analytics, Frank Wilke.

“The prices of Art Cars are measured by how the artists’ other works are traded. Therefore, it is almost irrelevant which model it is.”

The car ceases to be a car and becomes a sculpture.”

What can be taken from this exhibition is that car design can also be quite personalized, and can also rise and fall in value the same way a sculpture/art piece can. A general consensus for the automotive industry is that economy auto design affects a wide range of audiences, but a neutral approach has done the best in the past for attracting people. This could explain why more cars are sold in neutral/metallic and gray/ beige interior.