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Last week, a BMW executive whisked a silver cover off the hand painted Futura 2000 BMW M2 Competition on the Paramount Studios lot in Los Angeles, propelling the BMW art car program into a cool, new era. Unveiled during the Frieze Los Angeles preview, the black surface of the car looked as if it had emerged from a lunar landing. Thin painted lines wrapped around the three-dimensional surface, and a closer look revealed machine cogs and a fine dusting of greyish-white spackle.
To his cult-like collector base, it was signature Futura 2000—a textured style and militaristic sensibility he has spent four decades defining. Futura 2000, born Leonard McGurr, spoke about his longtime obsession with driving BMWs. Futura fans, including Lupe Fiasco and Travis Scott, stopped by to peer into the interior, and murmurs of a flooded BMW website to sign up for information about the 500 limited editions, made the event feel more streetwear apparel drop, than car company reveal.
Futura is at the center of the 2020 cultural zeitgeist. He has recently revealed design work for Commes de Garçon, Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE, and Uniqlo. He’s also exhibited his paintings in Hong Kong, collaborated on artwork for the Weeknd, and reintroduced his Futura Laboratories brand. His reemergence as a multi-disciplinary artist has much to do with the fact that he helped define a trajectory that other artists now emulate.
Futura first rose to acclaim as the subway graffiti movement collided with the downtown New York art world in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, showing at Fun Gallery, Tony Shafrazi, and Sidney Janis. He introduced abstraction on an entire subway car and developed innovative spray paint techniques. In the early ‘90s, Futura’s studio practice evolved into design with pioneering streetwear apparel. He worked with Mo Wax and mega brands, like Nike, as he continued to explore cosmic motifs and incorporated the emergence of the alien-like Pointman character.
BMW Art Cars also date back to the 1970s, when in 1975, Alexander Calder painted the first art car, at the request of racecar driver Hervé Poulain. Something about the art cars captured the imagination of artists, and the program grew to include 19 art cars by Frank Stella, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, and more.
“It’s the very first time we are selling 500 cars to the customer,” said BMW M CEO Markus Flasch. “[Futura] liked the idea of us bringing art to the street.” The design was conceived during a three-day trip to Munich. “On day one, we brought him together with our paint experts to educate him on our paint guns and materials. The second day he painted the car, and the third day he instructed our guys on how to replicate this design on the 500-car edition.”
There are three hand-painted versions of the Futura series available, and registration is open here. Futura described the thrill of designing an art car that’s meant to be driven—which harkens back to the spirit of the subway trains he painted over 40 years ago—as the high of imagining art in motion.