Monday, August 9, 2010

Audi A1

IT’S an A1-sized canvas! Meet the one-off £350,000 Audi that’s got the art world in a spin. And Auto Express is the only UK magazine to be given access to it.

This incredible eye-catching MINI rival is the work of Damien Hirst – the wealthiest and most collectable living artist. He shot to fame in the Nineties by pickling sharks and sawing farmyard animals in half.

The project has been six months in the making, and it all began with Hirst expressing an interest in painting an R8 supercar for a charity auction. Having worked closely with Sir Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, Audi decided to pluck one of the first A1s off the production line in Brussels, Belgium – a 1.4 TFSI S tronic in white – and get Hirst to work his magic on it in time to be auctioned at Sir Elton’s famed White Tie & Tiara charity ball.

The dilemma was the weight and shape of the Audi – the legendary turntable on which Hirst does his work had only been used for large, flat canvases. Several visits to the Brit’s biggest studio, in Brimscombe Port, Glos, led to experimental attempts with a host of body panels. It quickly became clear that painting an A1 intact wouldn’t achieve the desired effect. As Hirst would craft the finish from a gantry 10 feet above his spinning rig, the falling gloss paint wouldn’t land on the Audi’s vertical panels (like the rear quarters and doors). So, everything had to be laid flat.

Bare white doors, bumpers, bonnet, wings and tailgate were all unbolted from the hatch and placed on the turntable inside the studio, which is four times the size of a double decker bus.

Audi had to step in with a new roof skin and rear quarter panels, as these are welded to the steel bodyshell. In essence, these were painted, and the firm’s Technical Centre in Milton Keynes, Bucks, had to fit them to the shell, one by one. Hirst’s final touch was an autograph on the roof spoiler.

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