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Stella Art Car To Go On Public Display At BMW Southampton

Originally Posted: November 03, 2011

Commissioned in 1979, the Frank Stella BMW M1 Procar was painted to Stella’s “Polar Coordinates” design. (Courtesy Photo: Bonhams/Simon Clay)

Southampton - Jonathan Sobel, owner of BMW of Southampton, has acquired the Frank Stella BMW M1 racing car, becoming the only private owner of an iconic BMW Art Car. Sobel is a passionate collector who has been involved in the arts for many years and holds seats on boards of several arts organizations.

Sobel purchased the one-of-a-kind Art Car at a Bonhams auction in Pebble Beach on August 18, 2011. The car will be on public display at the BMW of Southampton showroom when it opens in 2012 in its new facility, which is designed by former Gwathmey Siegel & Associates' architect, Joe Ruocco.

Explains Sobel, "The Stella M1 combines my two hobbies and passions, art and automobiles. It represents the marriage of art, engineering, and functional design."

Commissioned in 1979, the Frank Stella BMW M1 Procar was painted to Stella's "Polar Coordinates" design and created for Stella's close friend, race-car driver and champion, Peter Gregg. When Gregg and Stella were together at Daytona in 1979, Stella created the design specifically for Gregg's M1. This was the only time that a BMW-commissioned artist created a car for anyone other than the manufacturer itself.

Jonathan Sobel purchased the one-of-a-kind Art Car at a Bonhams auction. (Courtesy Photo: Bonhams/Simon Clay)

The "Polar Coordinates" design adds a dynamic aesthetic to the M1's exterior, as the colors and patterns of it change with each turn of the racetrack, shifting in each viewer's perspective. The design is based on a series of prints that Stella made in homage to his friend, Swedish driver Ronnie Peterson, who passed away during the Italian Grand Prix.

Stella (American, b. 1936), who is an essential figure in the history of art with works in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is also a devoted fan of racing. Not only has he contributed designs for Art Cars, but Stella has also been influenced by racing and automobiles in the creation of his artworks. His print series "Circuits" (1980-1984), presents abstract depictions of racetracks he visited.

The Art Car Series
A total of only 18 BMW Art Cars are in existence to date, created by some of the world's greatest artists, each hand-selected by BMW. Some of those artists include Alexander Calder, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol. Of those 18 cars, 17 are owned by BMW and remain in their collection. The only other, the Frank Stella M1 Art Car, now owned by Sobel, was previously owned by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. The cars have been displayed in museums and public venues throughout the world.

The M1 was made for three years, with production limited to 455 units. (Courtesy Photo: Bonhams/Simon Clay)

The BMW M1
The M1, the first of BMW's now acclaimed M series, is a mid-engine sports car intended for endurance road racing. It was first shown at the Paris Motor Show in 1978. The M1 was made for three years, with production limited to 455 units. Of those, only an estimated 54 cars were the Procar version built specifically for racing purposes, making the Procar one of the rarest BMWs in existence. The M1 Procar was the fastest German sports car of its era, with 470 horsepower and a top speed of 193 miles per hour. Its design was groundbreaking, the car's weight coming in at only 2,200 pounds in racing form, extremely light by industry standards, with fiberglass bodywork wrapped around a multi-tubular spaceframe chassis.

Sobel is the Managing Member of DTF Holdings, LLC, an investment firm in New York. He is also the Managing Member of Six Sigma Auto Group, which owns the BMW, Audi, Porsche, and MINI dealerships in Southampton, as well as commercial real estate in the area. Prior to founding his current entities, Sobel spent more than 21 years at Goldman Sachs & Co. in New York.

He is a Trustee of the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Dalton School, and the Public Art Fund. He is also a member of the Executive Committee for the Board of Visitors of Columbia College. Sobel has received Columbia College's John Jay Award for Alumni Achievement and their Dean's Award for service to the College. He holds an A.B. in Economics from Columbia.

BMW of Southampton is located at 35 Montauk Highway in Southampton.

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