What’s worth more – a painted BMW or an exploding Lamborghini?

BMW’s Koons art car goes up against the bizarre world of NFTs in an explosive contest

The exploding SHLOMS Lamborghini.

The exploding SHLOMS Lamborghini.


Using a car as a canvas is nothing new. In 1975, French racing driver and auctioneer Hervé Poulain commissioned the first BMW “Art Car”. Poulain asked American artist Alexander Calder to paint an already-gorgeous BMW 3.0 CSL coupé, which Poulain himself would enter in the Le Mans 24hrs.

That car kicked off a tradition of BMW asking famous artists to touch brush upon bodywork, with artists as diverse as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jeff Koons all creating arty coupés. Needless to say, the combination of a rare car and a famed artist can generate staggering values. BMW’s own M1 coupe, painted by Warhol, is estimated to be worth €60 million or more.

If art is about the process of creation – the adding of paint to metalwork in this case – then is the reverse also true? Is the process of destruction also of artistic merit? Well, someone seems to think so. Conceptual artist SHL0MS is a somewhat mysterious person who works in the emerging field of NFTs, or Non Fungible Tokens. These supposedly unique digital images can be sold and exchanged for incredibly large sums of money. Celebrity heiress Paris Hilton apparently paid more then €300,000 for an NFT created by the Bored Ape Yacht Club.

The SHLOMS Lamborghini Huracan in happier times.
The SHLOMS Lamborghini Huracan in happier times.

SHL0MS, who thus far is most famous for selling a one-off image detailing their identity, albeit written in illegible white ink on a white background, has decided to go one further than simply creating an image in Photoshop. Instead, they have decided to create an image of an exploding Lamborghini by… well, by exploding a Lamborghini.

At an undisclosed desert location, SHL0MS packed a Lamborghini Huracan supercar with explosives and pressed down on the detonator. The resulting conflagration is spectacular, it must be said, but nothing that you couldn’t see by searching for “Michael Bay” on Netflix. Then again, the initial explosion is not the point. It’s the result of the explosion that SHL0MS is interested in – the actual, physical fragments of the car, the shrapnel of Italian bodywork left behind by its destruction. These individual parts will be filmed in what is described as ‘stunning rotating videos’, each video becoming an NFT that can be sold.

According to a statement by SHL0MS: “Through the act of defiling the stereotypical objet de désir of the crypto space and positioning the charred wreckage as fine art, the artist delivers a smouldering critique of zero-sum, extractive practices in the crypto industry while postulating a way forward that centres around long-termism and a focus on using technology for broader societal value rather than self-enrichment.” We assume that the artist will still be making a considerable sum of money from the sale of the NFTs, so you can take such statements in whatever spirit you fancy.

SHL0MS plans to auction the NFTs in a manner that prevents major investors from snapping up vast amounts and rolling them over for a profit, and also claims that the project is entirely carbon-neutral, as the physical explosion and the data processing for creating and selling the NFTs have been theoretically offset.

“The supercar-related memes are funny, but they also implicitly symbolise the popular association of cryptocurrency to short-sighted profit seeking and zero-sum behaviour,” said SHL0MS about the project. “This project is intended to serve as a reminder of the revolutionary potential of the underlying technology – if we wield it correctly instead of solely for personal gain.”

Implicit criticism?

SHL0MS declined to comment as to whether the use of a Lamborghini was an implicit criticism of that car maker – Lamborghini has recently been issuing copyright-related take-downs to several NFT artists.

Koons has picked special red-and-blue leather for the interior, and his signature appears in BMW’s own corporate blue on the cupholder

If all that sounds a bit too wacky for you, BMW has a more conventional artistic offering – the Munich-based sports car maker has invited Jeff Koons back for another go at the whole art-car thing. Last time out, in 2010, Koons created a multi-coloured M3 racing car which BMW, in the Poulain tradition, took racing at Le Mans. This time around, Koons is creating a special paint-job for BMW’s M850i Gran Coupe, and this is one art car you’ll actually be able to buy.

BMW’s M850i Gran Coupe with Jeff Koons artwork is a limited edition car: just 99 will be produced.
BMW’s M850i Gran Coupe with Jeff Koons artwork is a limited edition car: just 99 will be produced.

Well, you and 98 other people - BMW will build 99 M850is with Koon’s colour scheme, which combines 11 different colours and if you were in doubt about the pop-art inspirations for the look, the word "Pop" is written in large yellow letters on the side. BMW reckons that it “symbolises power and speed”.

It’s not just the outside of the car – Koons has picked special red-and-blue leather for the interior, and his signature appears in BMW’s own corporate blue on the cupholder (for God’s sake, don’t spill anything on that).

BMW says that it will use a hand-picked team of paint specialists, who normally work on the company’s high-end 7 Series and Rolls-Royce models, to paint the Koons 8 Series cars in its Dingolfing plant, just outside Munich. Once it reaches the paint shop, each limited-edition model goes through an entirely custom process in which Koons’s design is applied layer by layer to a vehicle with a Glacier Silver basecoat. This is done in separate spray booths with workstations designed for skilled manual work. Here, a team of around 20 employees applies the lettering, graphic elements and coloured lines or surfaces by hand, layer by layer, with the help of stencils or foils.

Koons said: “My edition of the BMW 8 Series is my dream car! It is very special to me and I’ve wanted to create a special edition BMW for a long time. It is sporty and flashy as well as minimalist and conceptual. I can’t wait to drive it and ride in it, and I hope that people will enjoy the Gran Coupé just as much as I do. On the car, the lines are getting bigger on their journey from the hood towards the trunk, creating a sense of forward movement just as the ‘POP!’ and the vapour thrust design elements do. The blue colour resembles the vastness of space and I like the idea of the car being a global car. What matters is how we relate to each other and our awareness of everything we are surrounded by. For the driver and all passengers, there is a heightened state of pleasure. This is what my car has to offer.”

Sold at auction

So, which will be worth more in the future? SHL0MS’s exploded Lamborghini bits? Or a one-of-99 Koons BMW? Well, we know the value of the BMW – the only edition of the car to be signed by Koons himself has just sold at auction for €433,000. All proceeds of the auction go to the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), which Jeff Koons has personally been involved with for over two decades.

He said: “From the choice of colours to its overall look and use of material my car has a superhero feel to it. Giving to ICMEC and literally saving the lives of children is a superhero endeavour, now more than ever. I am thrilled that the auction of the car was such a great success! It should encourage anyone to get involved and appreciate the great work foundations are doing globally to make the world a better place.” .

Bob Cunningham, ICMEC’s chief executive, said: “We at ICMEC are so grateful for the generosity of the winning bidder, BMW, and especially Jeff Koons, whose partnership and support is instrumental in our efforts to help make the world safer for children.”

Call us old fashioned, but we reckon that the physical steel and paint will be the more valuable addition to anyone’s collection. And even if it’s not worth as much, at least you can enjoy driving it…