Jeff Koons will be the 17th artist in the program, which began in 1975 and has employed leading artists, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella and Jenny Holzer. Most of the artists have painted on BMW cars (both road cars and racecars). The last Art Car, Olafur Eliasson’s “Your Mobile Expectations: BMW H2R Project,” from 2007, was covered in ice and had to be viewed in a room that was cooled to subzero temperatures. Some BMW executives grumbled at its inaccessibility.
The announcement of Mr. Koons was made in a festive event at the artist’s huge studio in Chelsea. Mr. Koons stood with Jim O’Donnell, president of BMW North America. Also attending were the architect Richard Meier; Adam Weinberg, director of the Whitney; Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim; and Klaus Biesenbach curator of the Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1. Star chef Thomas Keller, of French Laundry and Per Se fame, did the canapés.
BMW said that Mr. Koons, who turned 55 last month, had expressed an interest in participating in the program in 2003. Mr. Koons said he drove BMWs 20 years ago while working in Munich, Germany, and came to appreciate them.
Mr. Koons’s Art Car design will not be seen until later this year, but it will probably go beyond applying patterns and colors. Much of his work is based on heroic or mock heroic versions of mundane and kitschy objects. He came to art world attention in 1985 when he put basketballs in a tank and vacuum cleaners in a glass case. He is known for such works as gilded porcelain sculptures of Michael Jackson and his chimpanzee Bubbles and oversize, metallic versions of balloon dogs. He and his extensive staff, sometimes compared with Andy Warhol’s factory, have also created huge works like 43-foot high topiary puppies, displayed outdoors in several locations, including at Rockefeller Center in 2000. In 2007, Hanging Heart, a piece based on colored Mylar balloons, was sold by Sotheby’s in New York for $23.6 million, a record price for the work of a living artist at the time.
Not all of Mr. Koons’s work is the sort of art likely to be displayed in a BMW dealer lobby. He has produced prints and lifesize figures of his own nude figure engaged in sex acts with the pornographic film star Ilona Staller — stage name Cicciolina — whom he married in 1991 and later divorced.On the other hand, Mr. Koons for a time supported his art career with a day job as a Wall Street trader, so he may understand BMW’s audience quite well.
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