Crossing Journeys

 May 19, 2019

BMW Art Journey Winner Abigail Reynolds has begun the first leg of her journey along the Silk Road, starting in her hometown Cornwall (UK). © BMW AG 25

We live in an interconnected world. More than ever it is realized how important it is to live in a symbiosis, with relationships that mutually benefit each other. This is what BMW has realized too when, in 2015 it launched a collaboration with Art Basel, called BMW Art Journey.

The artist’s journey is much more than arriving somewhere, to a destination. What really counts is the journey that the artist takes through the different steps. More and more companies are giving importance to the creative process itself and are using it not only in their sales and marketing but also by taking active part in the journeys that artists take themselves.

It’s a two way path, whereby brands are inspired by artistic touches and apply artistic elements, appearances to their products. Often every day products can appear in a different, almost magical aspect by having a new, artistic touch to them.

The other path comes as an initiation from the companies themselves, when they take part in a phase of an artist‘s journey, taking them to other unseen journeys by recognizing and supporting emerging artists worldwide.

This is one of BMW‘s special initiation for over forty years in the field of cultural and artistic engagements.

„We consider BMW a cultured brand. While our core business is luxury that doesn’t mean we end up on the bling-bling side of things. We wish to facilitate meaningful exchanges and projects and not just throw money at artists.“ says Prof. Dr Thomas Girst, Head of BMW Group Cultural Engagement.

The BMW Group has realized an important and underlying element for its own successful journey. By giving absolute creative freedom in all its cultural activities, it gives way to a fertile ground for the birth of groundbreaking artistic works as well as major innovations in a successful business.

BMW Art Journey: Samson Young, France, Murat, Departement Cantal, 2015 © BMW AG 25

Called the BMW Art Journey and reflecting the trip and journey that the Group stands for, the BMW Art Journey has as its main aim to take artists almost anywhere in the world to develop new ideas and to envision new creative projects. Since 2015, its inception the various artistic projects of the different journeys that have been supported have had deep and meaningful themes about interconnectedness, global and multi-continent travels and research, sustainability where art and science comes together, questioning the role of us humans in our world, on our planet. They reflect the artistic significance of artists‘ journeys.

This unique award is open to artists who are exhibiting in the Discoveries sector during Art Basel in Hong Kong. A judging panel comprised of internationally renowned experts meet first to select a shortlist of three artists from the “Discoveries” sector at Art Basel in Hong Kong and Art Basel in Miami Beach who are then invited to submit proposals for a journey aimed to further develop their ideas and artistic work. In the following step, the jury reconvenes to choose a winner from the three proposals.

When asked about the basic criteria that BMW sets to select artists for its Art Journey Prof. Dr Thomas Girst highlights creative freedom for the artists and cultural institutions they work with as of utmost importance. The Group aims at keeping the process open and transparent.

„We do never select the artists ourselves. We don’t have a say in our jury. Artists are always selected by an independent jury of internationally renown curators and museum directors. As a tech company we certainly love to see artists engage with the latest possibilities and cutting-edge processes. Yet that is ultimately for someone else to decide.“

The artist‘s journey is then, in collaboration with the winning artist, documented and shared with the public through publications, online and social media. The artists considered for the shortlist work with very different and new media.

“We had a very diverse group of artists who encompass a variety of media,” noted this year‘s jury in making its unanimous decision. “All of them engage important issues and are operating in contexts or in stages of their careers that will allow them to benefit from this incredible opportunity. We believe that the three selected artists have great potential to conceive a journey that will positively impact their research, their work, and their professional growth.“

For many artists such opportunities are unknown and not even considered as realistic. However it is a journey that may cross any artist‘s path, developing meaningful projects. The advice that Prof. Dr Girst gives to artists wanting to join such journeys stems from experience with highly supportive intentions:

„Try hard. And then try harder. Get up when you fail. Remain curious. Be aware that privilege is not the problem but when privilege is being taken away. Loss of integrity always comes with the justification of loss of integrity. Stay critical by all means. Consider to go underground as Marcel Duchamp advised the artists of tomorrow to do. Look around and realize that contemporary art is swamped with so much money that it corrupts your artistic endeavors. Look at poets. They hold high the spirit of culture far away from cash flow and the maddening crowd.“

The first-prize winner, Samson Young, described his experiences and discoveries, both personal and artistic in his travel journal.
Prof. Dr Girst comments in an interview related to the publishing of the book „The sense of movement when artists travel“ – a compilation of artistic projects and the artistic significance of artists’ journeys – that he was glad about how much the Group‘s networks, global cultural partnerships have been able to help him.

The world as it is today is more than ever in need of such examples of symbiosis. Every vision can be a wave in the ocean of potential, causing ripples of positive changes and initiating journeys for the betterment of our world.

Realizing this inter-dependance and taking supportive actions is just one part of it. The other one involves the visionary, the artist, the thinker who dares to see and reach out for such empowering opportunities.

BMW Art Journey: Samson Young, Morocco, Fez (Medina), 2015 © BMW AG

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