By IOL Motoring Staff

Munich, Germany - The first woman invited to create a BMW Art Car was South African artist Esther Mahlangu, when she covered the bodywork of a 525i sedan with the bright colours and geometrical shapes typical of Ndebele artwork. That was back in 1991; 25 years later BMW Individual and Mahlangu are back together, this time for an altogether more upmarket project, creating a dynamic Art Car interior for a long-wheelbase 7 Series.

Traditionally, Ndebele women decorate the outside of their homes with continuous patterns in bright colours, each panel celebrating an event in the history of the family that lives there - in much the same way as heraldic crests did for knightly families and the Bayeux tapestry did for William the Conqueror.

Mahlangu, however, has put these decorations and patterns from her people's traditional art form into new contexts, in the form of pictures, vessels or carpets, combining her artwork with items used in everyday life. Which is how she transformed this luxury sedan into a dynamic work of art - by painting her characteristic motifs on to the real wood interior trims.

The trim specialists at BMW Individual developed a special bleached-wood trim finish to be painted with Esther's images.

"When BMW sent me the panels to paint," she said, "I could see the design in my head and I just wanted to get started! I painted the small ones first to get the feel of the surface and then it was easy as the design follows the lines of the panels."

Silent auction

The trims then went back to Munich to be sealed, ensuring their durability, and installed in this one-of-a-kind car.

It's a right-hand drive 740Li long-wheelbase three-litre, 240kW turbo straight-six, finished in metallic silver with 20 inch V-spoked rims. The interior is trimmed throughout in fine-grained black and palest grey merino leather with weave-look stitching and hand-woven piping, complemented by a pale grey alcantara headlining and piano black inlays on the leather-trimmed custom steering wheel.

The Mahlangu Art Car will be shown in public for the first time at the Frieze Art Fair from 5- 9 October in London, where it will be sold by silent auction, with the proceeds to go to the "Art Room" project, which supports children aged five to 16 in their development using art as a medium.

You can register your bid online at or live at the venue after the unveiling.

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