Fashion and Design


How Mercedes-Benz inspires the art world.

23 July 2020

Did you know Mercedes-Benz has been a muse for some of history’s most talented artists?

Fashion and Design


How Mercedes-Benz inspires the art world.

23 July 2020

Did you know Mercedes-Benz has been a muse for some of history’s most talented artists?

A painting of a car

Andy Warhol’s Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Coupé (1954), 1986. Image: Frank Olewski, Köln

Mercedes-Benz has a long and proud relationship with the art world. In 1977, parent company Daimler AG established the Daimler Art Collection (now comprising more than 3000 works by 650 international artists) so that employees would be inspired by their daily encounters with art.

Here in Australia, Mercedes-Benz has been a Principal Partner of the country’s most visited art gallery, the National Gallery of Victoria, for more than a decade, in shared appreciation of beauty and design.

These associations should come as no surprise. Those who visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart quickly realise that Mercedes-Benz, in its various iterations, has been an ongoing art project for 120 years. During the last four decades, Mercedes-Benz has collaborated with many artists who have used the brand’s vehicles as inspiration for their own awe-inspiring works of art.

Paintings and drawings

The most famous example is a series called Cars, painted by Andy Warhol in 1986. A German art dealer, Hans Meyer, commissioned the first painting, which was based on a photograph of an 300SL coupé, to mark 100 years since the invention of the car. Mercedes-Benz was so thrilled by the result that it commissioned an entire series to trace the Mercedes-Benz history, from the Benz Patent-Motorwagen on.

Warhol passed away before he could complete the paintings, which would have featured 80 pictures of 20 models. However, from 1995 to 1998, New York-based artist Robert Longo continued the series, creating four large drawings called Cars From Above, which depict models such as the C-Class C180 W202 from the '80s and '90s. His stark black and white style is quite different to Warhol's bold and colourful aesthetic, encouraging viewers to appreciate the cars from a new perspective.

A painting of a red car

Robert Longo’s Big Red Car (Kompressor), 1997. Image: Hans Georg Gaul, Berlin

Incredible installations

A more recent standout comes from US installation artist Alexa Meade, who is known for transforming objects and people into living paintings. Meade was commissioned by Mercedes-Benz in 2012 to paint a C-Class coupé. The artist, who had never worked on an object as large as a car before, applied thick slabs of paint to the vehicle and used clever brushstrokes to give it the appearance of a two-dimensional painting.

The paint on her work never stays in place for more than a few hours, so she preserved the result in a series of photographs that make reality appear as a “painted dreamscape". It certainly made an impression – since then, Meade’s innovative work has appeared at the Grand Palais in Paris, the United Nations in New York, and the White House, to name a few.

Japanese installation artist Yasuaki Onishi was also commissioned to transform a Mercedes-Benz into an entirely different object. In 2013, Onishi used a Mercedes-Benz CLA sedan to create an ethereal art installation called A Breath of Mobility. He suspended the car 80cm in the air, and then covered it with polyethylene sheets held up by fishing lines so that he could capture the vehicle’s distinct shape. Once the car was removed, it left behind a floating silhouette that allowed viewers to appreciate the CLA’s flowing lines. After spending so much time with the vehicle and essentially recreating it, Onishi said he felt “something like the manufacturer’s pride” when faced with his finished project.

But in terms of pure wow factor, it’s hard to go past a piece by popular Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, who is coincidentally known as the “Andy Warhol of Japan”. Murakami brings together pop culture, history and fine art in his outlandish paintings. In 2019, he covered a Mercedes-AMG G 63 in subversive pop art that combines cartoons making strange facial expressions with vibrant flowers. The result looks like something straight out of the 1970s – with a surreal twist.

There are many other examples of Mercedes-Benz-inspired artworks, from drawings and paintings to installations and films. To see more, explore the Daimer Art Collection online

By Emily Tatti