BMW i3 and BMW i8 get the Memphis Treatment.

BMW i has created two unique cars to celebrate the provocative, revolutionary Memphis design group.

Published: May 2017
Video/Photos: BMW GROUP

Last year, 81-year-old South African artist Esther Mahlangu joined forces with BMW Individual Manufaktur to transform a BMW 7 Series Sedan into a dynamic work of art. She painted the bright colours and unique ornamental shapes typical of Ndebele art on a specially developed white-coloured, fine-wood trim before they were sealed to ensure their longevity and installed in the vehicle. It was Esther’s second collaboration with BMW. Twenty-five years ago, she became the first woman to create a BMW Art Car, adorning the bodywork of a BMW 525i Sedan with her characteristic Ndebele motifs. Her latest creation was shown to the public at last year’s Frieze Art Fair in October 2016 in Regent’s Park, London.


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A succession of sharp surface contrasts becomes a pure expression of rebellion and liberation from the rigid standards of traditional design.

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.

BMW-i3-and-i8-Memphis

 
A succession of sharp surface contrasts becomes a pure expression of rebellion and liberation from the rigid standards of traditional design.

 
With its design drafts, the Memphis group challenged existing dogmas, aroused emotions and created designs with high recognition value.

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.”


With its design drafts, the Memphis group challenged existing dogmas, aroused emotions and created designs with high recognition value.

 

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.

What catches the eye is that every single element is perfectly aligned and the geometric shapes flawlessly follow the curves of the bodywork of the two cars.
The world premiere of the BMW i Memphis Design special editions took place at the Salone del Mobile in Milan in April this year in the UniCredit Pavilion.
Lapo Elkann, Chairman and Creative Director of Garage Italia Customs (centre) and Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design (right), present the special editions of the BMW i3 and BMW i8 at Salone del Mobile with Michele De Lucchi (left), one of the founding members of the Memphis Group.  
The interiors, seen here in the BMW i3, also express the breakthrough philosophy of the Memphis Design Group, with upholstery in strong contrasting chromatic matches and bright colours, from orange to purple, green and yellow, in tailored graphic patterns.
A succession of sharp surface contrasts become an expression of rebellion and liberation from the rigid standards of traditional design. There are as many as eight layers of colour on the body, which proves the complexity of the entire process.

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.