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The German brand is known for its art cars, some of which were created as static exhibits for exhibitions, and others, including the most recent project, participated in races. This time the art car was the futuristic hydrogen crossover BMW iX5 Hydrogen, which fell into the hands of London artist Es Devlin. She made four works—Surface (2024), Surface II (2024), Mask (2018) and Mask in Motion (2018)—for the Art Basel exhibition in Switzerland , and the fifth project was a painted car.

The crossover’s body is adorned with a blue-and-white collage in which Devlin overlays drawings and text created in response to the prints and literature that lined her walls and bookshelves as a teenager. The drawings, which echo the 1831 woodcut The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, are superimposed on handwritten excerpts from literature’s longest sentence about water, taken from James Joyce’s seminal novel Ulysses.

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The collage is based on excerpts from BMW Group publications on hydrogen fuel cell technology. “From BMW engineers, I learned about the beautiful symmetry of the hydrogen fuel cell system—the energy that is used to separate hydrogen atoms from oxygen is recreated when oxygen combines with hydrogen inside the car. The by-product is not only the energy that powers the vehicle, but also water,” said Es Devlin.


The artist has also spent the past year speaking with BMW engineers, learning the mechanics of hydrogen fuel cell technology and its implications for the future of sustainable energy systems. As an opening chapter to the works on display in the exhibition hall, Es created a simple soundscape derived from her conversations with engineers and highlighted by a composer-written “Polyphony” played by BMW iX5 Hydrogen cars.

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