In a city currently awash with once-in-a-lifetime spectator opportunities, it would be easy to overlook the two-week transformation of a nondescript car park in Shoreditch into an art gallery. But the occupants assembled in this windy multi-storey make for a visit every bit as unique as the five-ringed extravaganza unfolding down the road.
For the first time ever in the UK, BMW has convened an exhibition of its fabled art car collection as part of the London 2012 Festival. And not just four or five examples, either; the entire line-up, from Alexander Calder’s original 3.0 CSL to Jeff Koons’ climactic M3 GT2, are spread over six floors of the NCP-owned venue.
The 16 cars (Olafur Eliasson’s frozen H2R project is obviously absent) will appeal to anyone with a passing interest in contemporary art – the hand-painted Andy Warhol M1 is worth the trip alone – or those with a lingering affection for ‘Batmobile’ CSLs. But for those partial to the notion that functional automotive design is already capable of dipping its head beneath the waterline of art, it is a must-see show.
Suspended on bare concrete like ink blots on canvas, the best of the collection invoke the furnace of creativity, energy, identity and movement that characterise motorsport. Some, like Roy Lichtenstein’s Group 5 320i Turbo, blur the line considerably; are you admiring the pop artist’s compositions or the thread-thin pillars and chasmal intakes of the aerodynamically enhanced BMW? Does it matter which?
Even if such questions don’t occur or intrigue, the exhibition also makes for a fine excuse for an excursion because, in the best tradition of London’s public galleries, it is free to attend. Just don’t expect to get up close and personal; BMW, naturally protective of its 35-year-old portfolio, has laid on enough shark-eyed security personnel to host an Olympic skeet shoot.
The Art Drive! BMW art car collection will remain on display until 4 August at the NCP car park on Great Eastern Street, and is open from midday to 9pm daily.