Can An Electric Car Be A Work of Art? Yes, Says British Artist Gavin Turk

The Vauxhall Ampera, the UK-market version of the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric car, hasn’t really caught the imagination of the UK car buying public. Like its American cousin the Chevrolet Volt — which will cease European sales this year — UK sales of the Ampera lag a long way behind cars like the Nissan LEAF and BMW i3.

So now a team from Vauxhall have paired up with artist Gavin Turk in the latest of a long line of publicity stunts designed to get people excited about the griffin-wearing plug-in: turn the range-extended electric car into a giant art canvas.

Part of Vauxhall’s ongoing ‘Vauxhall Art Car Boot Fair,’ the canvas-wrapped car — called ‘Mummy’ by Turk — will form the part of an ongoing live art project in which the car will tour the UK for three months, picking up everything from doodles from passers by to exhaust fumes, dust and mud as it goes. Now in its tenth year, the Vauxhall Art Car Boot involves artists touring the UK in (usually) vintage Vauxhalls, selling unique or limited-edition art work from the back of their vehicles at each location.

[Editorial note: for those unfamiliar with car boot fairs, they are essentially a little like garage, yard sales or flee market, but instead of selling things in your yard, you drive a car-load of things to a designated car boot event where you sell your wares along with hundreds of other ‘car booters.’ Given the small size of British homes, car boot sales have become the de facto way to rid your house of stuff you no-longer want or need — but are also beloved by many as the way to pick up antiques and other collectables for bargain prices.]

Meet the Vauxhall Ampera, and artist Gavin Turk -- who has made it.

Meet the Vauxhall Ampera art car, and its creator artist Gavin Turk.

Like the Chevrolet Volt, the Vauxhall Ampera can travel between 30 and 50 miles on a full charge of its battery pack, then switches to gasoline (petrol) power for longer-distance trips. Mechanically identical to its American sibling, the Ampera is made on the same Detroit production line, but wears slightly different body panels at front and rear.

Turk, who was the one tasked with turning a road-legal car into a moving art canvas, is no stranger to turning pollution into art. Previously, Turk placed canvas squares behind accelerating cars, capturing the gasses and particulates as they sped from the car’s exhaust. Mummy is almost an extension of this work, with each piece of pollution from other cars on the road making their own mark on the now pristine canvas car.

“The idea was to completely wrap the Vauxhall Ampera in canvas and then let nature take its course so the car in a way becomes a painting,” he said in an official press release.  “I loved the idea of using the car as a way to reflect society and our environment.”

High art, high brow, or pointless stunt? You decide.

High art, high brow, or pointless stunt? You decide.

If you live in the UK you’ll be able to see the art car at various events this summer, but we can’t help wonder if the publicity stunt has more to do with poor sales figures than artistic impression. Despite eagerly announcing each and every celebrity who happens to buy an Ampera, from sports personalities like Alex Gregory to actors like Harry Treadaway and fashionista Gok Wan, Ampera sales are no-where near where Vauxhall wants them to be.

And with dealerships all around the UK opting to replace showroom Amperas whose wheels have not turned for years in preference for more popular, higher profit items like the funky Vauxhall Adam hatchback, we think it’s only a matter of time before the Ampera is withdrawn from sale all together. That is, unless the crew at Vauxhall do something more proactive, like offer more customer test-drives, or train more sales staff on its range-extended EV.

But what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • anon

    Anyone else think this is one of the green Ampera’s from the worlds end film?nDon’t know why they bothered masking sections, a couple of tins of spray on white rubber plastidip would achieve the same result.