Julie Mehretu’s BMW Art Car Celebrates its World Premiere at the Centre Pompidou in Paris


Story by Pursuitist Special Contributor Kimatni D. Rawlins

Visiting France in the spring is always a culturally enlightening and refreshing experience. From historical artifacts to art exhibitions to world sporting events, there is much to see, feel, and explore while journeying through the verdant countryside or the city’s urban landscapes. Visitor senses will be opened by charming gardens, omnipresent museums, and unforgettable culinary experiences. This summer, Paris will sit on the world stage as it hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics.

So it comes as no surprise that BMW selected Paris for the World Premiere of the 20th BMW Art Car by Julie Mehretu at the World-Renowned Centre Pompidou. Mehretu was unanimously chosen to design the 20th BMW Art Car in 2018 by an international jury from the art world with an outstanding reputation based on their experience and expertise in leading positions at major museums and galleries.

The canvas for the 20th BMW Art Car is the BMW M Hybrid V8 endurance racecar, and Mehretu’s rolling masterpiece will join the past 19 BMW Art Cars created since 1975 in collaboration with renowned art icons such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jeff Koons.

To better understand the genesis of the Art Car series, BMW stated that its global cultural commitment is driven by the collaboration of the art world and the automotive performance arena. In fact, Mehretu and her business partner Mehret Mandefro have cultivated ideologies to help promote the artistic expression of young artists and filmmakers in Africa and provide a medium to showcase their work through BMW resources. Dubbed PanAfrican Translocal Media Workshops, the educational project will visit six African nations and conclude with the 20th BMW Art Car exhibited at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in Cape Town, South Africa in the first half of 2026.

“The whole BMW Art Car project is about invention, about imagination, about pushing limits of what can be possible. I don’t think of this car as something you would exhibit. I am thinking of it as something that will race in Le Mans. It’s a performative painting. My BMW Art Car was created in close collaboration with motorsport and engineering teams,” said Mehretu. “The BMW Art Car is only completed once the race is over.” Mehretu’s BMW Art Car will compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race next month.

Julie Mehretu works on the BMW Art Car #20 in Munich, Germany

BMW’s immersive program leading up to the art car unveil at the world-renowned Centre Pompidou in Paris highlighted the rich heritage and lineage of BMW Art Cars. Media guests toured exhibits to understand the cinematic depth of visual art. We sat with BMW designers, corporate executives, and Julie Mehretu to learn about the particular creative process of the racecar. Keep in mind that the 20th BMW Art Car wasn’t painted on directly. Instead, the inspirational motif was digitized, strategically cut, and meticulously wrapped so the work would not negatively impact the vehicle’s racing performance. And the past plays a vital role in the future since inputs of the Alexander Calder-designed 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL, the 1979 Andy Warhol BMW M1, or the 1991 Esther Mahlangu BMW 525i Art Cars led to the manifestation of the 2024 Julie Mehretu  BMW M Hybrid V8.

The BMW M Hybrid V8 is powered by a 4.0-liter V8 engine and a hybrid drive system that generates approximately 640 horsepower. Its styling is dynamic, featuring a forward-leaning “shark” nose; wide, laser-lit “kidney” grilles; twin diagonal headlights; triangular elements that cascade across the vehicle; and some hints of blue and purple highlights to articulate the natural colors of electricity. It is the perfect vehicle type for the Art Car installation.

At the Centre Pompidou, guests from various walks of life attended the evening celebration to witness a new fusion of expression. Dedicated to modern and contemporary art, the multifaceted glass and metal venue–shaped like a hexagon—is in the Beaubourg plateau, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. Once uncovered, BMW representatives and Julie Mehretu highlighted this undertaking as performative art.

Mehretu’s paintings showcase energy, space, and movement, and have always been themes in her work. This particular design is based on her painting “Everywhen” (2021-2023), displayed at the Grassi in Venice. Soon, it will become a feature collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“Everywhen” by Julie Mehretu

It’s fascinating when corporate entities intersect with the consciousness of innovators who positively change the world with their expressions, thoughts, words, and imagination. The BMW Art Car #20 reveal in Paris was uplifting and inspiring. Congratulations to all parties involved.

To complete your stay in “The City of Light,” make sure to rest your head at the artsy 5-star lifestyle-focused SO / Paris Hotel, dine at Le Train Bleu gourmet restaurant, and tour the Bourse de Commerce museum to witness the iconic works from the Pinault Collection.












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Brian Armstead

Pursuitist automotive and lifestyle contributor Brian Armstead has been involved in print, radio, web and television for over 47 years. Brian has traveled to 79 countries. He is a North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) Juror.