BMW i3 and BMW i8 get the Memphis Treatment.
BMW i has created two unique cars to celebrate the provocative, revolutionary Memphis design group.
The one-of-a-kind automobile showed BMW’s commitment not only to art, but also to combining BMW’s cultural engagement with BMW Individual for the first time. The transformed sedan showcases the extraordinary relationship between the craftsmanship available through the BMW Individual Collection and art.
In April 2016 in Milan, BMW i unveiled two new examples of the extraordinary possibilities of customisation. Two unique cars were customised by BMW i in collaboration with Garage Italia Customs. This creative hub specialises in tailoring cars, motorbikes, planes, helicopters or yachts by combining their clients’ desires with the aesthetic expertise and specialised knowledge of their experts.
Lapo Elkann, Chairman and Creative Director of Garage Italia Customs (and grandson of the legendary Italian automotive industrialist Gianni Agnelli), and his creative hub designed the cars to celebrate the Memphis group. The visionary style of the artistic and cultural movement revolutionised the world of design in the 80s.
“Lapo Elkann is a pioneer in linking the disciplines of fashion, automobile and design. As a designer, I find this comprehensive approach particularly exciting,” says Adrian van Hooydonk, Head of BMW Group Design. “With BMW i, we have been successful in overcoming previous restrictions in automotive design through the use of entirely new materials.”
“Renewing the bond with BMW i is a great pleasure. I fully share their vision of looking at the future and technological innovation as the leading elements in any project,” says Lapo. “Creativity, style and innovation have always been the key features of all the work carried out by my team in the field of planning and the study of design. This collaboration has given me the opportunity to celebrate my great passion for the Memphis artists. I have been collecting significant works of art from this movement for quite a while and they surround me and inspire me in my everyday life.”
The Memphis group has some meaningful synergies with BMW, particularly the BMW i vehicles. Adrian points out: “During the 80s, the Memphis group questioned the formal severity and classic functionality of design artefacts both in a somewhat provocative and humorous manner. In this way, Memphis became a symbol of contemporary design. With its design drafts, they challenged existing dogmas, aroused emotions and created designs with high recognition value. The BMW Group pursued a similar approach when designing the BMW i vehicles, questioning typical car design language, breaking new ground and redesigning vehicles from scratch.”
The new liveries created by Garage Italia Customs for the BMW i MemphisStyle exterior design on the BMW i8 are characterised by oblique, horizontal and vertical lines, along with hypnotic patterns and vibrant colours.
Ettore Sottsass founded the Memphis group in 1981. It was created as the absolute antithesis to functionalism and commercial logic. It gave rise to daring lines in furniture and was characterised by unusual materials and original graphic patterns. Movements like Art Deco and its surprising geometrical shapes, Pop Art with its bright colours, and Kitsch as a way to detach from the minimalist design of the 70s inspired the style.
“Electric vehicles of the first generation were predominantly intended to attract attention,” says Adrian. “We also adopted a new approach with regard to materiality. For example, we were the first car manufacturer to use carbon fibre-reinforced plastic as new material for industrial series production.”
The MemphisStyle Edition BMW i3 and BMW i8 are characterised by oblique, horizontal and vertical lines along with hypnotic patterns and vibrant colours. A succession of sharp surface contrasts becomes pure expression of rebellion and liberation from the rigid standards of traditional design.
What catches the eye is that every single element is perfectly aligned and the geometrical shapes flawlessly follow the curves of the bodywork of the two cars. The realisation was meticulous and it required over five weeks of work. Before the various painting phases, different masking was applied to each car to create the patterns. There are as many as eight layers of colour on the body, which proves the complexity of the entire process.
Both interiors confirm and express the same breakthrough and experimental philosophy typical of the Memphis design. The different materials chosen for the upholstery are in strong, contrasting chromatic matches. Bright colours, from orange and purple to green and yellow, are the main features, along with the tailored graphic patterns. Every single element of the cabin thus becomes an integral part of the artistic language that stirred the 80s and influenced design and decor over the following years.
The BMW i8 MemphisStyle was exhibited at Frieze New York 2017.