Book List of the Week

Thomas Girst’s Book List: Art and Cars

By Steve Kroeter October 7, 2013
Thomas Girst: Head of Cultural Engagement: BMW Group (Munich, Germany)
View Thomas Girst’s Book List

“Your library reveals more about you than your public persona,” says BMW’s Thomas Girst, a voracious reader who has also worked as a journalist and an editor and is the author of three books on artist Marcel Duchamp, including The Duchamp Dictionary (forthcoming May 2014, Thames & Hudson). “If only it would support my lifestyle and family, I would be happiest spending my days doing research in libraries and archives all over the world, writing books within rooms upon rooms filled with books from floor to ceiling.”

Among the books in his own library (which Girst notes includes more than 200 volumes on Duchamp alone) are a German edition of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and of Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which he admires in part for the simple design of their covers. He describes the cover of the edition of Proust’s work he owns as “poetically basic. Its design (the title appears only on the spine—horizontally....) harks back to that of the 18th and 19th centuries and thus ever so subtly underlines Proust’s absolute timelessness.” Contemporary titles on Girst’s book list include Abstract City by Christoph Niemann, a collection of Niemann’s witty illustrations for the New York Times, which show, Girst comments, that “sophistication and smiles do go together.” 

As Head of Cultural Engagement for the BMW Group, based in Munich, Girst translates much of his love of books and art into the public sphere via the lens of the luxury car manufacturing company in unique ways. He oversees the Art Car Collection at BMW, a project begun in 1975, in which world-renowned artists (Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, among others) have painted and otherwise transformed BMW-built race cars. Girst is the editor of the forthcoming book BMW Art Cars (2013, Hatje Cantz; Carl Magnusson, contributing editor), which traces the history of the project.

CULTURE (2011) with spread featuring examples from the BMW Group’s Art Car Collection. The book, designed by Stefan Sagmeister, can be driven around with a remote control. Photo courtesy of Sagmeister & Walsh

In 2011 he worked with graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister to produce CULTURE, a book that could be driven around as well as read. Showcasing BMW’s 40 years of cultural partnerships, CULTURE featured an integrated remote-controlled car. 

A partnership that Girst has facilitated over the past two years has been the BMW Guggenheim Lab, in collaboration with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. This mobile “laboratory” explores visionary ideas for cities and has traveled to New York, Berlin, and Mumbai and  The Lab’s final project, “Participatory City: 100 Urban Trends from the BMW Guggenheim Lab,” opens October 11 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

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