BMW took the wraps off its 18th Art Car last month, but if it looks sort of plain, that’s because you’re not wearing the virtual-reality glasses required to properly take it in.

The car was created with new-age creative VR splendor by 39-year-old Chinese artist Cao Fei, and put on display May 31 at the Minsheng Art Museum in Beijing, China.

Fei’s creation makes her the youngest artist to have ever completed a BMW Art Car commissioned by the German brand.

Unlike previous BMW Art Cars, which were all painted the traditional way – with, well, paint covering the car’s body like it was a canvas – Fei’s design uses multimedia to cast dynamic, moving lights and colours over and around the BMW’s surface via virtual reality, borrowing some cues from traditional Chinese artistic style and folklore.

For instance, the dancing lights visible in VR represent good luck for both the M6 GT3 the artwork is transposed upon; the racer inside it, and their shared aspirations to take the checkered flag.

The lights also depict the power and transcendence of thought, says the artist.

“To me, light represents thoughts. As the speed of thoughts cannot be measured, the #18 Art Car questions the existence of the boundaries of the human mind,” explains Fei.

“We are entering a new age, where the mind directly controls objects and where thoughts can be transferred, such as unmanned operations and artificial intelligence.”

The VR experience takes the form of a short film in which a young man is transported through time from ancient to modern China; he eventually puts on a pair of VR goggles that allow him to see the enchanting BMW M6 GT3 Art Car in all its glory.

Fei’s inspiration for the Art Car took three years to develop, and was solidified on the racetrack as she sat shotgun while lapping Chinese racetracks with racer Cyndi Allemann behind the wheel; she also visited BMW’s new factory in Tiexi, China while musing upon the project.

The #18 Art Car will make its global race debut at the FIA GT World Cup in Macau in November of this year.

(BMW)