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BMW Has Bad-Ass New Art Cars Courtesy of Artist FUTURA 2000

Famed graffiti artist puts his signature touch on for-sale BMW M2 Competition coupes.

Brett BerkWriterCourtesy of BMWPhotographer

LOS ANGELES—BMW has unveiled a trio of customized, 405-hp M2 Competition coupes, each hand-painted by famed graffiti artist FUTURA 2000 (real name: Leonard Hilton McGurr). These vehicles signal the beginning of a collaboration that will result in a limited-edition M2 Competition model, the BMW M2 Edition Futura. The car will be available by special order via the Bavarian marque's BMW Individual program, and just 500 will be offered worldwide starting February 18. And, yes, you can get it with a six-speed manual.

"FUTURA 2000 is a pioneer for when graffiti met contemporary art. He is a master of color, movement, and line. And he paved the way for a whole new generation of high-profile urban artists," said Thomas Girst, BMW's head of cultural engagement, about the collaboration. "On top of all of this, his visceral style matches the M brand's nature perfectly."

McGurr broke out as an abstract graffiti artist in New York City in the '70s and '80s, painting subway trains and then showing at galleries with contemporaries like Jean Michel Basquiat, Lee Quiniones, Lady Pink, and Keith Harring. He then went on to a successful career as an artist and designer, having worked on collaborations with brands that include Supreme, A Bathing Ape, Nike, and The North Face. He also had a long collaboration with The Clash during their Combat Rock era, designing album sleeves and touring with the band, creating graffiti, live, on stage during concerts. But he never expected this latest collaboration to come about.

"This has been an amazing opportunity to join BMW's history, with its Art Car archive and long support for the arts," he said. "That was an honor. And secondly, I've been a loyal customer, and I love the brand. I've been driving a 3 Series since 2001."

The custom vehicles McGurr designed were created in collaboration with BMW's M performance division in Germany, and at a radically quick pace.

"The process was amazing," McGurr said in Los Angeles. "I got to go to Munich and work in their M facility, and work with their artisans and professional paint division. This all happened in just the last 18 months. It's remarkable to get it pushed through so quickly. BMW has been very supportive of this project."

The pitch-black cars wear beautifully customized and somewhat sparkly interiors and exteriors that enhance the M2's potency and menacing performance capability. McGurr's design includes abstracted visions of what appears to be a night sky, crisscrossed by lightning, thunderclouds, ray beams, stars, and, notably, a broad variety of saw blades. "Aesthetically, creatively, I tried to represent myself, and what my work is looking like right now," says McGurr.

McGurr grew up in New York City, in a walk-up apartment. "My family never had a car," he said. Though he is not a car collector or fanatic—his 2001 3 Series is his only vehicle—he fell into a brief love affair with cars during a formative phase when he was in the military.

"There was a time in the '70s and I was stationed in California, and I was all over cars—muscle cars, Camaros, Firebirds, Challengers. Something fast, because that was the era," he said. "I can flash back to 1975, out on the West Coast in some fast car. But this M2 is a beast, it's just amazing." He muses on his present situation, via this nostalgic memory. "How can that young kid, maybe even wearing a uniform, project the future and imagine that this would be happening?"

Most intriguingly, the new collaboration puts McGurr in the mind of his earliest work, painting graffiti on subway cars in the New York City transit system. "The beauty of painting trains, even if it was illegal, was that essentially we had rolling galleries," he pointed out. "We were too young to know what was happening, but looking back, I appreciate this time when we were doing this public art, again, illegally, and we had these amazing trains rolling around nonstop, 24 hours a day, as kind of rolling art. This is the first time I'm going to see my art moving again. And that's really interesting."

Girst concurs. "FUTURA 2000 is an amazing artist who naturally understands mobility," he said.

McGurr places this contemporary art movement, and the concept of moving art, in context. "Street art, public art, it's blowing up right now around the world, people are very receptive embracing it. But it's static," he observed. "If you're not standing in front of it, that's it. You may drive by, but you were moving. It wasn't. Why shouldn't art move?"