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Beating art of a BMW

All four Art Cars look perfectly at home in a gallery but are racers and each has hit the track.

No, vandals have not run amok in a BMW car park. This is a work of art and part of a unique collection.

BMW has given cars to prominent artists as a blank canvas since the 1970s and four have just been in Sydney for a quick display at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

The four cars from the BMW Art Car Collection were given the treatment by the legendary Andy Warhol, Australia's Ken Done, father of pop art Roy Lichtenstein and minimalism leader Frank Stella. And they are not just any cars. Done did his work on an M3 race car. Warhol was allowed to paint one of BMW's super-rare M1 race coupes and Stella got a 635 racer.

Done is famous for his ubiquitous Australiana symbols that have been emblazoned on every possible tourist souvenir from the 1980s onwards.

So it's fitting his 1989 work on a BMW M3 was inspired by the colours of our parrots and parrotfish.

``Both are beautiful and move at incredible speed,'' Done says. ``I wanted to express the same thing.''

The resulting riot of strongly patterned lush colour would certainly look at home cruising along the Great Barrier Reef.

The late Lichtenstein's oversized comic strip-inspired style was loud and bold, but his 1977 transformation of a BMW 320i Group 5 racer is subdued by comparison.

The design relies on an exaggerated dot technique, but Lichtenstein has used it to portray a subtle record of the road and landscape the car experiences.

All four Art Cars look perfectly at home in a gallery but are racers and each has hit the track.

Jim Richards drove the Done car to an Australian Touring Car Championship win in 1987, but that was when it was still painted in the black-and-gold battle colours of the Benson & Hedges race team.