81-year-old South African Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu has partnered with the German car company BMW to design the BMW 7 Individual series. A regular BMW 7 series is expected to retail for £71,000 in the U.K., but auctioneers expect the version featuring Muhlangu’s work to go for as much as £200,000.
Dr. Ian Robertson of BMW AG described the company’s partnership with Mahlangu as unique, saying, “Within the framework of the long-term partnership with Frieze and Frieze Masters, we are combining our cultural engagement with BMW Individual for the very first time.
“I am delighted that we have been able to work again with Esther Mahlangu, an exceptional artist and someone I remember well from my time in South Africa. Together, with experts from BMW Individual Manufaktur and BMW Group Design, Esther has created a unique work of art: a BMW Individual 7 Series that forms an extraordinary relationship between craftsmanship and Ndebele art.”
This however is not the first time Esther Mahlangu has partnered with the BMW company. In 1991, Mahlungu worked with BMW to create the BMW 525i, which was described as the first “African Art Car.” Her design was later exhibited at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., in 1994.
Her designs featured on British Airways planes and on the Fiat 500 as well as on several international forums, such as the Museum of Art and Design in New York and the Urban Interpretation, Graffik Gallery London U.K.
Describing her partnership with BMW, Mahlangu said, “My art has taken me all over the world, and I have seen many places. I have painted many walls and objects and my work is in many museums, but I am still Esther Mahlangu from Mpumalanga in South Africa. My heart was full of joy when BMW asked me again to paint for them.”
BMW’s designers developed the Individual 7 Series, and provided Mahlungu with white-colored, fine-wood trim to be covered with the unique Ndebele designs; Mahlungu’s Ndebele design will feature prominently in the areas around the 7 Series’ dashboard.
The BMW 7 Individual Series will go on public exhibition at Frieze Art Fair London in October and then be auctioned in a silent bidding process. The proceeds from the sale is expected to go toward funding the Art Room, a charity that supports children ages 5 to 16 years.