BMW, we are told in their latest advertising campaign, means joy. This seems a trifle greedy and selfish because BMW have a whole raft of adjectives they can pin on the arse-end of their ads that are far more relevant or appropriate. I can understand them shying away from words like "depreciation' or "planet-hating' but why not the classically meaningless adjectives of yore like quality?
Note to BMW: There are other means of transport that have far fewer choices than you and by using up "joy' in your dog-in-a-mangeresque way you've made life far more difficult for them. Spacehopper means joy, has a ring of truth about it that BMW means joy can never obtain.
The images of naked models on Spacehoppers covered in blue paint being directed around a canvas by Yves Klein with a whistle have been lost to us, but the myth and rumour that surrounds them cements the Spacehopper firmly in art history. BMW had no such pedigree as a tool of the artist, having only been used as canvas, a gap it requested its advertising department to plug.
And plug they did. Enlisting a photogenic young artist (Robin Rhode), a famous name (Jake, son of Ridley, Scott), an upbeat title: Expressions of Joy and a vast location, to make sure the result would be the hugest that there ever could be. No doubt a team was dispatched to the Youtube lab to double-check that nothing original was being done and we can only imagine the whoops of delight as they discovered that they were about to rip-off that pillar of the art world, Honda ( "... I mean Honda for Chris'akes, that's up there with Picasso and Duchamp').
"This work is an expression of painting in action - my hope is to communicate the power and thrill inherent in the creation of art. For me, the use of an unconventional paintbrush like a high performance car is a great way to investigate the relationship between emotion, technology and industrial creativity", Rhode explains.
He goes on to say that one source of inspiration was the seminal work of Gerhard Richter's series of paintings Red, Yellow, Blue made in 1973 for the company headquarters in Munich, Germany
Rhode does indeed use some red, some yellow and some blue in the piece and it is helpful to have that reference flagged up lest we attribute the selection to some other wielder of the primary colours.
Sadly less is said of his other inspirational sources and, in order to place Expressions of Joy properly in context we must look to the lineage. Alongside Honda's Hr-V advertisement from 1999, where four school teachers thrash happily around on a bunch of huge paint tubes, we have Aaron Young's work and his recent performance at the Moscow branch of Gagosian Ltd. Style.com described the performance thus: "[his] quasi-legendary motorcycle performance piece', which this time involved eight Eastern Bloc Hells Angels. "Not a bad night for me," smiled Young as he surveyed the blackened and track-marked canvas that will be sold in multiple pieces. "I just made a million paintings in like five minutes. Actually, in exactly seven minutes."
So far, so 1980s, but the Gagosian website tells us that: In Arc Light, Young takes Robert Rauschenberg's iconoclastic gesture, Automobile Tire Print (1951) as his starting point. So there we have it, yet it is disappointing that none of the artist have chosen to credit Tony Hancock. The artist can be seen riding a bicycle on canvas in the fly-on-the-wall documentary The Rebel (1960). This was once required pre-course viewing for all art students and surely part of the initial workshop of Young and motorcyclists.
Such a shame BMW let Robin Rhode have his sticky way with the innocent little vehicle. Hammering out another wham, bam, seven minutes exactly, Pollocky skidfest. Wouldn't it have been refreshing to have seen an elegant series of three-point turns, a canvas full of parallel parking? We could have admired the symmetry and the tightness of the turning circle, and as adjectives go, refreshing is a winner. But they can't say BMW is refreshing, they just wish they could, but they can't, it just isn't true.