The Mercedes-Benz W 125 was just one of the subjects of Andy Warhol’s ‘Cars’ project going on display in Los Angeles.
If you love cars and are heading to Los Angeles any time soon, then you will, of course, be making time to go to the legendary Peterson Automotive Museum. But if you also happen to be a fan of art, then there might be an extra reason to head there: appearing for the first time in public for more than a decade and in North America in more 30 years, “Andy Warhol: Cars – Works from the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection” will go on display there from the 23rd of this month.
‘Cars’ was the last series Warhol created before his untimely death in 1987 and was commissioned by Mercedes-Benz in 1986 to help celebrate its 100th anniversary. Warhol planned to create 80 pieces of art using 20 different Mercedes models spanning the German carmaker’s 100-year history.
However, at the time of his death in 1986 following gallbladder surgery only 49 works – 36 screen prints on canvas and 13 drawings – were completed. ‘Cars’ has been exhibited just twice in its entirety in public: in Germany in 1988, and in Austria in 2010.
Of course, ‘Cars’ was Warhol’s second automotive art project – the first being his rather more famous BMW M1 Art Car in 1979 – but unlike the iconic BMW work, ‘Cars’, along with Warhol’s similar commission for Perrier, was criticized as ” undistinguished glitz”, with critics accusing him of crossing the line into advertisements.
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Warhol countered by describing himself as a “business artist,” whose commissions represent an acknowledgment of “the commercial reality of artistic production often concealed by modern notions of the autonomous artist.”
As well as Warhol’s art, the museum will also have a number of the subjects on display, with Mercedes-Benz also loaning a 1937 W 125 Grand Prix car and the unique 1970 C 111-II, the experimental car that used a highly-aerodynamic fiberglass body and tri-rotor Wankel engine – later replaced with a turbocharged diesel – to reach speeds of 320kph.
Also featuring will be a 1954 W 196 Formula One car on loan from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. In total, forty original Warhol works from the “Cars” series, all on loan from the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection, are presented accompanying the historical vehicles.
“Andy Warhol was an iconic and influential figure that pioneered Pop art and culture,” said Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges.
“Not many have seen his automotive works, so we are excited to display them to the public alongside the unique vehicles that inspired his creative visions. It is an exclusive exhibit that appeals to both admirers of fine art and amazing automobiles.”
An interesting addition in an adjacent gallery is a 1974 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow bought brand new by Warhol after achieving commercial success with his art.
Despite owning the car for the rest of his life, Warhol never had a driver’s license and never drove the Silver Shadow, always riding as a passenger and relying on his friends for transportation. His long list of famous chauffeurs includes Mick Jagger, Imelda Marcos and Liza Minnelli.