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Cars – Art Basel

At the return of Art Basel in Miami Beach earlier this month, cars were enmeshed with art in splashy statements around town that appeared in exhibitions, events, and design collaborations. As the auto industry charts a path toward carbon neutrality, the opportunity to engage with culture—and the tastemakers who support it—offered a chance for carmakers to share their vision for what’s on the horizon with the art and design community. The omnipresence of cars and car brands around Miami Art Week served as a reminder that despite the sprawling traffic in Miami, ultimately vehicles were designed to bring us together.


Foregoing the usual auto show route, BMW unveiled its high-profile concept car, the BMW XM. The XM is an elaborate plug-in hybrid SUV swathed in vintage leather and crushed velvet. The XM is a one-off concept but will be molded into a similar production SUV capable of powerful performance. The reveal was held at the Herzog & de Meuron-designed parking garage at 1111 Lincoln Road, and was bookended by Nas’s 40-minute live set and the reveal of commissioned work by Kennedy Yanko. The reveal doubled as an Art Basel opening celebration, as part of BMW’s long-standing partnership with the fair. BMW-branded cars were omnipresent around town all week long.


At Design Miami/, an installation by architect Germane Barnes with Lexus and the University of Miami marked the first time Barnes, who describes himself as a car enthusiast, has worked with the automobile as a subject. “On/”  is Barnes’s interpretation of the Lexus LF-Z concept car, a vision in step with the journey to a carbon-neutral future. Barnes worked with his students from the University of Miami to make a statement on motion at play. The exterior steel form was suspended in space and illuminated by a series of LED lights. The lighting scheme was consistent throughout the exhibition that also included an interactive swing, and could be seen from a distance.


The most poignant car-related reveal of the week was Virgil Abloh’s dazzling imagining of the Mercedes-Maybach as a sleek, electrified escape vehicle. Among his prolific body of work, Abloh collaborated with Mercedes design chief Gorden Wagener on this dreamy concept car, staged in a lush installation at the Rubell Museum that resembled a camping trip to Joshua Tree. The classic German luxury cruiser was presented as a two-door, earth-toned, off-road ready escape vehicle, complete with removable seats, toylike wheels, and a video gaming console. The long, sleek two-seater spans some 20 feet, and utilizes solar-powered cells, and served as a testament to Abloh’s creative genius following his tragic death.


At the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum, Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann was on hand to view “Lamborghini Countach: future is our legacy,” an exhibit tracing the company’s evolution. “We are here to tell a story and to show how we fit into an ambiance like Art Basel,” he said.  A striking black 1986 Lamborghini Countach LP 5000 QV was at the center of the exhibit. “If you look at this car, it made history in the car business. It was launched 50 years ago.  In terms of lights, the DNA, the mechanics, if you look underneath the forward cam, the scissor doors, it changed the way of looking into super cars. It’s more than just design, it’s history and maybe one day it will be art.”


Rolls-Royce gathered a group of high-powered women leaders (who also happen to be Rolls-Royce owners) to honor the women’s accomplishments in business and philanthropy. In a showy dinner at the W Hotel, the Phantom Phenoms traveled to Art Basel from around the country to share more about their professional accomplishments. They were real estate moguls, chemists, and business owners. Each has a record for substantial charitable work on global issues such as food insecurity and child mentoring. Their work was presented in a short film series shown to the guests.


Lincoln Design Director Kemal Curić joined a panel focusing on automotive interiors at the SLS South Beach, along with architect Piero Lissoni, to discuss how the car is considered, not as an object, but as an evolving environment to be experienced. It underscored the message of the week, as much as cars are objects, they are also environments.


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