Last fall, the BMW Group published the fourth edition of its Independent Collectors’ Art Guide. Like many luxury brands, the German carmaker has been busy developing a variety of partnerships with the arts in their ambition to consistently remain culturally and socially relevant. It’s a true balancing act, nurturing that delicate relationship between commercial and creative vision. Getting involved in art collaborations and art partnerships with emerging and established contemporary artists or institutions has become quite a skilled endeavor among the world’s most prestigious brands. But why, we wonder, do only luxury brands seem to take advantage of the power of art for its instant injection of relevance, interest and “nowness”?
The BMW Art Guide is a collaborative publication between the German luxury carmaker and Independent Collectors of contemporary art, presenting 256 private yet publicly accessible art collections, large and small, famous and unknown, across 180 cities and 43 countries. It started in 2012 to simply gather and enlist privately owned contemporary art collections with public access around the world. The result was a well-designed, pocked-sized publication that has, according to the BMW Group, become the go-to-guide to discover new art collections in the most diverse settings on the planet. And so, the concept of “art experience collecting” was born.
BMW’s first foray into the arts dates back to 1975 when the French auctioneer and racecar driver Hervé Poulain commissioned the American artist (and personal friend), Alexander Calder, to paint his racecar. The result was to become the very first BMW Art Car. Since then, a number of well-known artists like Frank Stella, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons have joined the ranks of the BMW Art Cars Project’s featured artists. BMW Art Cars initially only appeared at car races, without any public participation, so to speak. Only later, as the public’s interest in contemporary art and artists grew, the art collaborations started to take a different shape; they soon began serving as travelling advertisements, reinforcing BMW’s elevated image and borrowing the cache of the many rock-star artists they collaborated with.
Nowadays, it’s a known fact that the tighter brands are able to align their commercial and creative visions, the more original and desirable they become. Yet, at Arts & Labour we can’t stop asking two simple questions. First, why aren’t more brands, high-end or not, taking advantage of the art collaborative model that has proven time and time again to work for the BMW Group and a handful of other savvy brands so effectively and for so long?
Second, why do brands who do not have creative visionaries the caliber of Herve Poulain in-house, not make a point of outsourcing the creative vision they so desperately need to succeed? Why are they not aligning their marketing and product development teams to bring their creative and commercial visions together to reach their full capacities?