Calder BMW Art Car coming to Norton Museum in West Palm Beach

The Norton Museum of Art presents “Special Guest: Calder BMW Art Car” through April 24, 2022. The exhibition spotlights the American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976) as part of the Norton’s “Special Guest” temporary exhibition series featuring notable loans to the institution. The piece will be installed in the Gilbert and Ann Maurer Lobby alongside a tapestry by Calder and archival film footage. 

“Our ‘Special Guest’ exhibition series at the Norton provides visitors with the opportunity to see extraordinary works of art that often are not accessible to the public,” Ghislain d’Humières, Director and CEO of the Norton Museum of Art, said. “The Calder BMW Art Car (Artist’s Proof) is no exception-as this installation marks the artwork’s debut in the United States at an institutional venue.” 

In 1974, French auctioneer and racecar driver Hervé Poulain commissioned Calder to paint a BMW race car. One year later, the momentous collaboration was realized. Calder devised dynamic forms in bold colors across the car’s wings, bonnet, and roof that recall the artist’s famous mobiles and stabiles, but also his two-dimensional works. Conceived by BMW Group Classic for the Calder Foundation, the Artist’s Proof realizes Calder’s dream of creating his own example of the first BMW Art Car, operating as the kinetic work of art that he intended.  

Calder’s BMW Art Car raced for the first and only time at 24 Heures du Mans on June 14, 1975. One of the final works of art created before the artist’s death, the project was a momentous collaboration that spurred an entire Art Car program at BMW – a prestigious, high-profile crossover with the art world. After Calder’s Art Car competed at Le Mans, it was subsequently exhibited at the artist’s sprawling retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1976, where it occupied a promient place in the museum for the run of the blockbuster exhibition. 

Alexander S. C. Rower, president of the Calder Foundation and grandson of the artist, said, “I first encountered the BMW Art Car as a kid at the opening of my grandfather’s far-ranging retrospective at the Whitney Museum in 1976. I asked him about the roar of its M49 engine, and he smiled and told me he wanted to make one for himself. He died just a few weeks later. Ever since, I have dreamed of realizing his wish to bring the car to life to experience its full glory in motion.” 

The 2021 Artist’s Proof was conceived by BMW Group Classic for the Calder Foundation not as a replica, but as the unrealized, identical artist’s proof to which Calder was originally entitled. Meticulously developed from an original BMW 3.0 CSL, the Artist’s Proof carries the same Vehicle Identification Number, with the suffix “AP” (227592/AP). To create it, the two organizations consulted with key members of the initial project including Poulain and Walter Maurer, who completed the technical painting of the 1975 Calder BMW Art Car as well as that of the Artist’s Proof in 2021.  

Poulain recalls, “It was a thrilling moment as a young driver to meet the great American artist Alexander Calder at his home in Saché. Racing what became the first in a storied tradition of prestigious Art Cars is a memory I will never forget. I am delighted that more people will now get to experience Calder’s vision, thanks to this new Artist’s Proof.” 

The installation represents the latest iteration of the Norton’s “Special Guests” series, which displays exceptional works of art on loan from public and private collections. Other special guests currently on view include “Special Guest: The Water Lily Pond (Clouds),” featuring Claude Monet’s The Water Lily Pond (Clouds) from the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art and “Special Guest: Beaching the Boat (Afternoon Light) A Masterpiece by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida,” from the holdings of the Hispanic Society of America in New York. Both paintings date to 1903.  

The Norton Museum of Art extends special thanks to the Calder Foundation, New York, and Pace Gallery, Palm Beach, for making this loan possible.  

About the Calder Foundation 

The Calder Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1987 by Alexander S. C. Rower and the Calder family, is dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, preserving, and interpreting the art and archives of Alexander Calder. The Foundation’s objectives include furthering public knowledge and appreciation for the arts; conducting research in art history and related subjects and presenting those results to the general public; providing facilities and programs to assist the education and development of artists; and preserving Calder’s artistic legacy for scholarship, including the physical preservation of his works, archives, homes, and studios. Additionally, the Calder Foundation is dedicated to conserving natural resources and education in agriculture and sustainable environmental practices.

The Foundation’s projects include collaborating on exhibitions and publications, organizing and maintaining the Calder archives, examining works attributed to Calder, and cataloguing the artist’s works. The Foundation also organizes its own exhibitions, lectures, performances, and events on Calder and on contemporary artists supported by the biannual Calder Prize and the Atelier Calder residency program in Saché, France. 

About BMW Group Classic 

BMW Group Classic is the branch of the BMW Group responsible for all activities concerning the history of the company and its four brands BMW, BMW Motorrad, MINI and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. It comprises the BMW Museum, BMW Group Classic Services and the BMW Group Archive.

Another important element of BMW Group Classic’s brief is participation in top-class national and international events. And it also manages and oversees the technical preservation of every model in a collection now spanning more than 1,400 vehicles, ensuring they are ready to appear in engagements worldwide. 

About the Norton Museum of Art 

The Norton Museum of Art is home to the leading and most far-ranging collection of art in Florida and the region, with distinguished holdings in American, European, Contemporary, and Chinese art and Photography. In 2019, the Norton unveiled an expansion by Foster + Partners, featuring the new 59,000-square-foot Kenneth C. Griffin Building, which greatly enhanced the Museum’s facilities and was accompanied by the complete reinstallation of the museum’s renowned collections in state-of-the-art galleries. 

The Norton is also recognized for advancing the practice and appreciation of emerging and under-recognized artists. In 2011, the Norton launched RAW (Recognition of Art by Women). Since its inception, the series has presented the work of Jenny Saville, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Phyllida Barlow, Klara Kristalova, Nina Chanel Abney, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Svenja Deininger, and María Berrío. In January 2019, the Museum launched an artist-in-residence program, which hosts four artists annually who are literally in residence in restored homes that border the Museum’s campus. This year, María Berrío was in residence during the presentation of her first museum survey, and photographer Jessica Ingram, whose publication Road Through Midnight was recognized by the New York Times, returned to participate after being forced by the pandemic to cut short her planned 2020 residency. 

The expansion of the Norton also provided new and enhanced facilities for its educational programs, special exhibitions, lectures, tours, and other activities that serve the Museum’s diverse audiences. It also transformed the Norton’s 6.3-acre campus into a “museum in a garden” which celebrates the beautiful year-round weather in West Palm Beach and features new, verdant public spaces and a 37,000-square-foot sculpture garden. 

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