Organized for the 12th time on September 14-17, 2017 this year, Contemporary Istanbul (CI) brought art and automobile together. Co-sponsored by Borusan Otomotiv and BMW, CI introduced BMW Art Car designed by South African artist Esther Mahlangu, to art lovers at floor B1 in Istanbul Congress Centre while two BMW i8 automobiles were exhibited outside.

    Contemporary Istanbul

    The 1991 model BMW 525i which was designed as a work of art by Esther Mahlangu for BMW Art Car Project was exhibited in Turkey for the first time in Contemporary Istanbul to be organized in Istanbul Congress Centre and Lütfi Kırdar International Congress and Exhibition Centre. At the entrance to the exhibition venue, art and auto lovers were welcomed by two BMW i8 automobiles.

    The patterns painted on BMW parts by Mahlangu, who is the first women to have painted for the BMW Art Car Project 25 years ago, meet the African tradition with the spirit of BMW. Women in Ndebele tribe in South Africa, of which Esther Mahlangu is a member, decorate the outer walls of houses with fine patterns and graphics in marriage ceremonies and other occurrences, using them as some sort of active communication board. Having started to paint under the guidance of her mother and grandmother as a 10-year-old girl, Mahlangu, has taken this traditional art from its existing limits to a brand-new dimension by painting the surfaces of different daily objects ranging from cups to carpets.

    “To paint is in my heart and it is in my blood. The way I paint was taught to me by my mother and my grandmother. The images and colours have changed and I have painted on many different surfaces and objects but I still love to paint. The patterns I have used on the BMW parts marry tradition to the essence of BMW. When BMW sent me the panels to paint, I could see the design in my head and I just wanted to get started! I started off by painting the small ones first to get the feel of the surface and then it was easy as the design follows the lines of the panels,” says the 81-year-old artist. And she adds, “My art has taken me all over the world and I have seen many places, I have painted many walls and objects and my work is in many museums but I am still Esther Mahlangu from Mpumalanga in South Africa.”

    Having been the first female artist to join BMW Art Car Project 25 years ago, Esther Mahlangu embellished the body of this 1991 model car with vibrant colours and unprecedented motifs which are unique to Ndebele art, turning it into a BMW Art Car.



    The BMW Art Car Project was introduced by the French racecar driver and auctioneer Hervé Poulain for the first time. It was 1975 when Poulain invited an artist to ask him to use a vehicle body as a canvas. Alexander Calder was commissioned to turn a BMW 3.0 CSL into a work of art. It was a ground-breaking idea to use an automobile as a means for visual art at that time. Later on, BMW used Calder’s work at Le Mans 24 Hours races.

    In 1976, the project was undertaken on the same BMW model but by Frank Stella this time. And it was repeated in line with the spirit of time as a BMW tradition in succeeding years. Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Jeff Koons and many other artistic geniuses have displayed their talent on BMW models since then.