One-On-One With Head Of BMW Group Cultural Engagement On Supporting Artists Like Spencer “MAR” Guilburt

BMW Group CulturePhoto Credit: BMW AG
The BMW Group Culture division—a subdivision of BMW—was created to support and fuel a variety of artists across the globe, to further connect with its customers. Unsurprisingly, the group has a strong presence during Art Basel Miami Beach—as it has quickly become one of the most renowned and celebrated art weeks in the world—putting together art talks, partnering with street artists and creating experiential events that are highly engaging. For instance, it introduced Art Basel visitors to its Art Journey winner Zac Langdon-Pole at both the Soho House and the BMW Lounge, who led a discussion together with NASA astronaut and space photographer Terry Virts; and it created a social media content series with street artists Spencer “MAR” Guilburt and Alexandre Arrechea, who took guests on a virtual mural tour through Miami—in areas like Lynwood Art District, South Beach and the Design District—during Art Basel. The two celebrated street artists took brand-new BMW 8 Series vehicles to visit various murals in Miami—including those partly created by Guilburt—and to Nara Roesler Gallery‘s Art Basel Miami Beach booth, where Arrechea’s artworks were on display. They also engaged in a conversation to discuss inspirations and artistic intersections, among other topics. Here, I chat with BMW Group Culture’s Head of Cultural Engagement, Professor Dr. Thomas Girst, who discusses how the group chooses its partnerships, the motivation behind its inception and its next steps.
BMW Group CulturePhoto Credit: BMW AG
Deyvanshi Masrani: Tell me about the BMW Group Culture division, in your own words.
Prof. Dr. Thomas Girst: BMW Group Cultural Engagement serves to support a variety of artists and art mediums throughout the world, something that is very important to us as both a luxury brand and technology company. IT allows us to connect with our customers in a way that truly speaks to their lifestyle and things they enjoy. We consider BMW a cultured brand in and of itself, and we wish to facilitate meaningful exchanges and projects—not to just throw money at artists. BMW’s Cultural Engagement spans decades of support for the arts and that support will continue as we continue to meet our customers and fans where they are.
DM: How does the group choose which cultural initiatives to partner with?
TG: We have been active in the arts for almost 50 years with hundreds of initiatives worldwide. To us, creative freedom for the artists and the cultural institutions we work with is of utmost importance. That is why we also want to keep the process open and transparent. We never select the artists ourselves. We don’t have a say in our jury. Artists are always selected by an independent jury of internationally renowned curators and museum directors. As a tech company, we certainly love to see artists engage with the latest possibilities and cutting-edge processes, so this usually catches our attention. Even still, the artists and institutions BMW supports are ultimately for these renowned experts to decide, and we’re happy to lend this support.
BMW Group CulturePhoto Credit: BMW AG
DM: Why was it important for the brand to start this type of group/initiative?
TG: If a company were a person, how would it behave? What do we return to a society we do successful business in? This is first and foremost about cultural citizenship and support for the ideas and institutions that challenge and shape our culture. Our customers appreciate thoughtful design and luxury, and this is a way for us to support great initiatives and interact with them at the same time.
DM: What type of audience is BMW trying to connect with through the BMW Group Culture division?
TG: BMW aims to foster authentic connections with a variety of audiences via the Group Culture division, which is why we consistently support such a wide variety of artists, initiatives and mediums. These audience members might by BMW customers, BMW fans, people who are not into cars at all and simply appreciate culture and the arts, or a mix of all of the above—which we absolutely welcome. By giving artists creative freedom and a truly unbiased platform, we can share amazing things with a variety of interested audiences.
DM: What are the main ways/platforms that BMW uses to connect with these audiences through the Culture Division and why?
TG: We are in touch with these audiences through a host of different means; whether it’s physical exhibits or events, social media, publishing or other channels, we aim to create engaging experiences and content that reward audiences with cultural enrichment. Among these different means are activation such as the BMW Art Journey, in which BMW partners with Art Basel [Miami Beach] to showcase a serving artist yearly; BMW fully supports the artist on a journey to develop and hone their artistic endeavor. We help with all arrangements prior and during the trip and also assist with research along the way and meeting the right people. Another timeless example, in connect on with our core heritage as a car company, is the BMW Art Car collection in which we’ve partnered with notable artists that utilize iconic BMW vehicles as a blank canvas.
BMW Group CulturePhoto Credit: BMW AG
DM: What’s next for BMW Group Cultural Engagement?
TG: BMW is not only a mobility provider, but a high-tech company. We will see more collaborations focusing on advanced technology, employed both by our designers and engineers, as well as cutting-edge artists. It will be great to see how our mutual curiosity will gear our inter-cultural dialogue more and more toward the future we all want to share together. As Marshall McLuhan [famed 1900’s philosopher] said, “On spaceship earth, there are no passengers—we are all crew!”
For more on BMW Group Culture, please click here.