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BMW H2R Art Car by Olafur Eliasson

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H2R Project: BMW's 16th Art Car by Olafur Eliasson
Source: BMW Group

The work of the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson (1967) reflects an intensive interest in formation processes and phenomena found in nature and technology. Artificial waterfalls, refracted light, the forming of mist and ice are recurring elements of Eliasson’s sculptures and atmospherically unmistakable installations. In them one senses not only the conditions under which they come about and the impact of their energy but also the beauty of natural phenomena. It is it not until they enter the perceptions of the viewer that they complement each other.


At the Pinakothek der Moderne Olafur Eliasson presents Your mobile expectations: BMW H2 R project. It is one on which the artist has been collaborating intensively with architects BMW employees and scientists for the past three years. Nominated by an international jury of curators, Olafur Eliasson was commissioned by BMW in 2005 to design the 16th BMW Art Car.

This Eliasson-designed automobile, the BMW H2R, is a racing car powered by hydrogen that has been developed to achieve speed records and at the same time point to the future in terms of sustainable mobility.

Olafur Eliasson has removed the outer covering of the H2R prototype and replaced it with a complex skin of two reflecting layers of superimposed metal spanning the body of the car. This shape is covered with fragile layers of ice. Thus Eliasson transforms an object of advanced automobile technology and industrial design into a work of art reflecting themes of mobility, temporality, renewable energies and the relationship between car production and global warming in a sophisticated and poetic way.


“Our movement in space implies friction: not only wind resistance, but also social, physical, and political frictions,” Eliasson comments. “Thus, movement has consequences for self-perception and the way we engage with the world. One can look at the body as a mobile vessel or a vehicle that changes the parameters of time and space. In driving a car, one obviously also negotiates the way time-space is constructed. What I find so interesting in the research on movement and environmentally sustainable energy is the fact that it enhances our sense of responsibility in how we as individuals navigate in a world defined by plurality and polyphony”

To create and conserve the car’s ice coating, the vehicle is stored in a refrigeration chamber. Over a period of several days Eliasson had the car’s exposed frame sprayed with some 2000 litres of water to gradually produce the layers of ice. What has emerged from this process is an artwork approximately 1.5 m high, 5.25 m long and 2.5 m wide. Illuminated yellowly from within, it radiates an icy atmosphere.

As a work of art located in time, Olafur Eliasson’s transformation of the H2R-automobile is a design provocation that opens up debates about the profound
impact of art and design in their contemporary social setting.


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