The case for art cars

Kimberley Ng
2023 - Audi e-tron GT Electric Dreams by Andy Yang - audi e-tron gt electric dreams

We spent some time in the Audi e-tron GT Electric Dreams art car and wonder – why don’t we see more art cars?

Photos by: BMW, CarBuyer Singapore, Kimberley Ng, Porsche, and Suzuki

In January this year we saw Audi Singapore unveil its own art car, the e-tron GT Electric Dreams by multidisciplinary artist Andy Yang. Using artificial intelligence software Dall-E, Yang put his prompts of an electric future in and the result is what you see below. 

An ‘art car’ is defined as a ‘vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression’. From BMW’s collaborations with artists like Andy Warhol to Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche 356, the worlds of art and automobiles aren’t strangers.

So when Audi reached out to us with the chance to get behind the wheel for a couple of days, we jumped at the chance. How often do you get a chance to drive an art car? What followed over the next two days as we took the car on a tour of Singapore were intrigued stares, eyebrow raises, and even nods of approval from pedestrians and motorists alike. 

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While it’s not uncommon to see automakers collaborate with artists on one-off cars, seeing an everyday car with a unique piece of art is a little more rare. There’s car wraps for owners who want a colour not available at the dealer, or for those who prefer a neon/holographic chrome look. But why don’t we see more art on everyday cars? 

Given the amount of curious eyes we had on us during our time in the e-tron GT Electric Dreams, unwanted attention is obviously a top factor on why we don’t see car exteriors as expressive more often. Especially if you’re driving a car like the e-tron GT that has a starting price of S$565,555. 

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Andy Yang’s signature on the Electric Dreams’ charging port cover

Conversely, there are car owners with bright glimmering chrome wraps who know their cars attract attention — see: Xiaxue’s iridescent Mitsuoka Viewt — and even welcome it (the Singaporean blogger had the habit of not locking her car at one point).

The habit so far with art and automotive collaborations tends to reside on one-offs for campaigns. Porsche Singapore for example recently put on display the Crystal Eroded 911 by Daniel Arsham at its Mandala Club experiential space. 

2023 - Porsche Art Week - CarBuyer Singapore - porsche mandala club 911 992 crystal eroded daniel arsham

BMW has a storied history with art cars with artists like Andy Warhol and Jenny Holzer on the roster. 

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Jenny Holzer’s BMW art car

In 2022, when Lexus Singapore launched the new NX, artist Tiffany Lovage was engaged to hand paint a canvas on the leather panels on the doors in the interior. 

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Yayoi Kusama worked with Audi to produce an R8 covered in red polka dots for the brand’s centennial

At this year’s Motor Show however, Suzuki engaged artist Erika Tay to produce four Japanese-inspired designs for four of its models, with customers who purchase a Suzuki at the show given the option to add the decals. 

Of course, these examples are different from slapping some prompts into an AI generator and putting them on a wrap (which itself also raises issues of ethics).

In fact, there’s nothing stopping owners from taking a paintbrush and letting their creative juices flow, kindergarten style. Porsche even commissioned two 911s to be hand-painted by Nelson Makamo and Hanna Schönwald.

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Nelson Makamo’s hand painted Porsche 911

Then you have enthusiasts who wear stickers and decals proudly announcing drives they’ve been on, endorsing brands they like, and anything else they fancy. Not too different from laptops you see covered in stickers of the owners’ favourite design/brand/TV character. 

At the 2023 Consumer Electronics Show, BMW unveiled its i Vision Dee concept with e-ink skin — 240 colour e-ink panels each capable of displaying 32 different colours. Granted, this technology likely won’t enter production so soon, but it’s an exciting glimpse of the personalisation that could come.

And when it comes to personalisation, the most obvious instance is the clothes we wear on our backs. If you care even the slightest bit about how you look or what your clothes might say about you, that’s likely fashion as a form of self-expression at work. And as a form of self-expression, putting artwork on your car isn’t too different either. 

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“But I don’t care about what I wear, I just pick the same Uniqlo T-shirt in a different colour and that’s it!” You might see yourself being above someone who puts thought into clothes, but doesn’t rejection of something require some knowledge of it?

And if you are someone whose items like notebooks and laptops and phones have been covered in stickers, how different is that really, from slapping a giant wrap with artwork you like on your car?

At worst? You endure disapproving stares from civilians. At best? You have fun expressing yourself to the world. People might stop and ask you “Why?”, but you get to ask in return, “Why not?”


art car Audi audi e-tron gt electric dreams

About the Author

Kimberley Ng

The youngest and shortest of the CarBuyer Singapore bunch, Kimberley is the proud owner of a Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1...diecast from Shuco. She runs the CarBuyer Singapore Tik Tok @carbuyersingapore. For unrelated purposes, her favourite song is Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. Special talents include impressions of famous rapper Lil' Jon. [email protected]/@kimmyk7

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