It was back in 1975 - slap bang in the middle of a car-unfriendly oil crisis - that auctioneer Hervé Poulain had an idea to bring together art and industry like never before.
Poulain - who was mad about speed and industry - struck upon an idea to take part in the 1975 Le Mans 24 Hours race in a race car painted by an internationally famous artist.
Thus, the concept of the "ArtCar" was born. Since then, luminaries including Warhol, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Rosenquist have each designing automobiles for the world's most prestigious races.
Alexander Calder, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol were each commissioned by Poulain to produce the first ever artist-designed cars for BMW (in 1975, '76, '77 and '79, respectively).
Today, the ArtCar phenomenon continues, with Jeff Koons the latest artist to team up with Poulain and BMW. His design will compete in the Le Mans Classic next month (July 10-11).
In the meantime, collectors of classic automobiles or art have a chance to acquire an exceptional 1994 additional to the ArtCar cannon (after Poulain revived the concept in the mid-'90s).
The 1994 McLaren F1 GTR Chassis No 5 designed by César, the renowned French Sculptor and Assemblage Artist, is set to auction at Artcurial in Paris on July 9.
Regarded as an heir to Rodin and Giacommetti, César was no stranger to the world of classic automobiles. The artist created a sensation with his art exhibit of cars compressed into blocks at the Salon de Mai, back in 1960.
Believed by many to be an 'attack' by the artist on the cult of the Consumer Society - in particular its cars, pollution, waste, and traffic jams - the provocative artwork cemented César's global reputation.
Decades later, the 'cult' of the automobile led Gordon Murray (on leave from Formula One) and Peter Stevens to design an aesthetic masterpiece to realise Bruce McLaren's dreams of dominating the world's fastest race circuits.
The car's bodywork was modified by the French artist César in 1995
The result of their vision was the McLaren F1 GTR, featuring a distinctive centre-aligned steering wheel in the cockpit, a magnificent BMW engine and a maximum power of 640hp at 6,750rpm.
With top speeds of 225mph, a series of seven cars - Chassis No 1-5 - were built for the 1995 racing season and targeted at select high-end clients.
Of these, Chassis No 5 was acquired by the French industrialist Jean-Luc Maury-Laribiére. His previous races had included the Venturi Trophy ever year from 1992-94 and the 1994 Le Mans 24 Hour.
It was during the following year, 1995, that César added his inimitable final touches to the McLaren's bodywork, placing it in the distinguished ArtCar pantheon.
The McLaren F1 GTR Chassis No 5 will auction at Artcurial with an incredible pre-sale estimate of €2m-2.5m.
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