Sunday 11 May 2008

i've just read Vivien Johnson's excellent monograph on Michael Jagamara Nelson (1997), the artist who designed the grand mosaic in the forecourt of Parliament House in Canberra, Australia and who famously threatened to take a chisel to it in 1993 at the height of the Mabo Land Rights debate (painted version on cover at left). He also painted one of BMW's well known 'Art Cars,' a project that was conceived in 1975 and to which Warhol, Lichtenstein, Hockney, Rauschenberg, Stella, Calder and others have been commissioned to contribute over the years.

"As Andy Warhol's comment ('I adore the car; it's much better than an art work') somewhat ambiguously suggests about his car (the only other hand-painted contribution to the project), the most intriguing question about the Aboriginal Art car may turn out to be whether it is better art in western terms, because conceptually more complex, than the same painting on canvas. The paradox of adorning an icon of western materialism and technologcal progress with indigenous iconography evocatve of the very antithesis of these values made sense to BMW's executives as advertising copy for their product, but the validity of the Michael Jagamara Nelson Art Car as Art is not necessarily diminished by their business acumen. Alongside the corporate perspective is another, from which the Aboriginal Art car's startling conjuncture of incommensurables has little to do with either irony or bathos. While acknowledging its resonances with the concerns of contemporary international art, we should not overlook the car's equally significant resonances in collision of thse two realities that makes for the ironical depth of this Art car, the contest of values which gives the work its conceptual strength."

This whole series of BMW ArtCars can be seen here at the manufacturer's own site.
And there are some good shots here in somebody's photo album, put together at time of recent exhibition: BMW Art Cars Exhibition- Jehangir Art Gallery- Sep 9, 2007 "BMW India presented today two BMW Art Cars embellished by world renowned artists Andy Warhol (BMW M1, 1979) and Roy Lichtenstein (BMW 320i, 1977) at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai a rare opportunity for motoring and art enthusiasts." (with scale models of the other cars)

Andy applies some red to the front fender

Last minute discovery. Blog titled 'Frantic scratchings - stuff I want, stuff I need, stuff I like' has all sixteen of the the related videos which will save you rounding them up from Youtube. Compare in retrospect Roy sizing up his little toy model on the table with Nelson getting to grips with the real car.

Johnson notes that when the artist realized it was a big ask to get the job done in the ten days allotted for the specailized workshop facilities (with penalty clauses in the contract for running overtime) he chased the video team out.



Blogger Matthew Adams said...

I don't know what it is like now, but when I was in school we only devoted part of one term to aboriginal art, and most of what we were taught was rubbish. Then we got to do our own dot painting, as if aboriginal art was that easy. In uni I looked at it a little more and discovered how the art changed from one area to the next (I'm still not sure if there is an underlying similar approach to all aboriginal art i.e. dot painting). Now, a lot of the aborignal art I hear about is aimed at tourists, and how much the art is worth in the tourist trade. So far we have managed mostly to ignore aboriginal art, or turn it into quaint tourist gifts.

11 May 2008 at 18:54:00 GMT-5  

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