Georgia O’Keeffe wrapped on a NASCAR — you might be aghast, but here’s why it could work

NASCAR is collaborating with the Art Institute of Chicago to create a pace car for the upcoming Chicago road race that is anything but ordinary. The canvas for this unique project? None other than the iconic work of Georgia O’Keeffe.

No images yet. The car will be unveiled at the 2024 Chicago Auto Show—which starts today. Which painting will they use? The Art Institute has 20 O’Keeffe paintings.

NASCAR and O’Keeffe—your first impression might be, “WHATTHE isn’t O’Keeffe that woman artist who paints flowers?” But that would be a superficial (and misguided) reaction. Let’s think about this, and view it from O’Keefe’s perspective. She never let anyone refer to her as a female artist. She was an artist.

Men put me down as the best woman painter…
…I think I’m one of the best painters.

— Georgia O’Keeffe

“O’Keeffe was concerned with her work, not with her gender.”

Her determination to be recognized for her work, irrespective of gender, echoes the boldness of this collaboration. O’Keeffe’s vision—transforming the intimate into the monumental, ensuring the essence of her subjects is felt, seen, and understood on a grand scale—finds a new home on the dynamic stage of NASCAR.

In her own words, O’Keeffe sought to convey her personal experiences, her connection to the natural world, through her art: “I have painted what each flower is to me and I have painted it big enough so that others would see what I see.” This ethos of magnifying the personal into something universally accessible finds an unexpected yet fitting parallel in the world of racing, where the roar of engines and the blur of speed capture collective emotions and thrills.

However, O’Keeffe’s affinity for the serene and contemplative aspects of Asian culture, with its minimalist and meditative qualities, presents a contrast to the high-octane environment of NASCAR. Yet, in the role of the pace car—leading rather than competing in the noise and tumult—O’Keeffe’s work may offer a moment of reflection, a quiet guide ahead of the thunderous pursuit.

Yes, Georgia O’Keeffe is a leader.

2023 NASCAR and Art Institute of Chicago

Last year’s collaboration brought Vincent van Gogh’s 1887 Self-Portrait to the racetrack, infusing the race with a touch of Post-Impressionism.

The best part of the Van Gogh car is that you can lower the back seat window, and Van Gogh’s forehead disappears.

As we await the unveiling of the O’Keeffe-wrapped pace car, this partnership between NASCAR and the Art Institute of Chicago continues to challenge our perceptions of where and how art can be appreciated. It’s a reminder that creativity knows no bounds, and sometimes, it takes the lead in the most unexpected of arenas.

Of the Art Institute’s 20 O’Keeffe paintings, which one would you like to see wrapped around a NASCAR?

The cow’s skull would look pretty B.A. on a NASCAR.

Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses” by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1931 from artic 1947.712

The giant cloud painting would transform the car into some sort of car with wings.

The photo was taken by me on November 17, 2011. Hubbard Street dancers perform an interpretation of Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Sky above Clouds IV

One of my favorites is the yellow painting, “Yellow Hickory Leaves with Daisy“.

The bright yellow would make a very bright wrap on the car.

Although I might be skewed. I like that painting because it appeared on a bunch of the Art Institute tickets I collected. When I worked in the Prudential Building from 2018-2020, I went to the Art Institute a BUNCH during lunch. This photo of my cubicle wall was taken on October 18, 2019.

On the opposite spectrum of that bright yellow painting is, “Black Cross, New Mexico“.

Imagine the entire car covered with that black. Very subtle. You wouldn’t really realize it’s a painting until you see the knots (or nails?) in the wood.

The red/orange/yellow stripes would be an incredible highlight on a section of the car.

Black Cross, New Mexico” by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1929 from artic 1943.95

Check out the 20 Georgia O’Keeffe paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection. If there’s one you’d like to see on the NASCAR, leave a comment on this post, Facebook, BlueSky, Mastodon, or Threads.

The official 2024 Georgia O’Keeffe NASCAR pace car

One day after I published this blog post, the O’Keeffe car design was unveiled on Instagram.

They went with the clouds. A few thoughts…

Clouds are better in the museum

When you think of Georgia O’Keeffe, do you think of clouds? I think of her close-up flower paintings. Large swaths of color. The cloud painting is great. It’s massive. Here’s that photo again.

The painting makes more of an impact due to its location in the museum. Put the clouds on a car, and it’s like, uh. Yeah. There are these white shapes on the car.

Marshmallow car

Speaking of white shapes on the car, they look like marshmallows to me. Funny how I never thought about marshmallows when I view the painting in the museum. It’s only when they put the clouds on a car that they suddenly look like marshmallows. That’s what a change of context can do. It makes you see things differently. I wish the change of context made me think of the clouds in a more… massive way. Instead of a s’mores way. Say, where’s the the chocolate and graham crackers?

No ticket giveaway

This year, the Art Institute doesn’t appear to be doing a ticket giveaway. With last year’s art car, the Tute gave away four tickets to the race and four tickets to the Van Gogh show. Here’s what they posted last year:

Ready. Set. Gogh! 🏁 Win tickets to @NASCAR 🏎️ and the Art Institute of Chicago! 🎨

Don’t miss two of the biggest events this summer—the Art Institute’s special Van Gogh exhibition and the @NASCARChicago Street Race. We’re giving away four tickets to the Street Race + four tickets to the Art Institute with access to “Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: The Modern Landscape.”

Tag a friend in the comments below for a chance to win!

Comments must be received by June 7 to qualify. (Visit the link in our bio for rules and terms.)

For comparison, here is the post for this year

nascarchicago Riding in style with @artinstitutechi 🤩

Unveiling our new custom-wrapped #NASCARChicago Toyota Camry pace car!

The wrap features the Art Institute’s upcoming Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit, “My New Yorks.” The partnership, now in its second year, is designed to showcase Chicago’s world-class sports and arts culture.

artinstitutechi Amazing! 🙌 🎉 We’re on cloud 9. ☁️ Thanks, NASCAR!

No ticket giveaway. In fact, the post right now has 200 likes, but no comments. Instagram is so strange.

Not a full wrap

Last year they didn’t cover the hood or the trunk with Van Gogh. This year they are doing the same, saving that space for promos about the race.

The car would have SO much more impact if they covered the ENTIRE car. I want a white cloud car all over. Not just the left and right sides. If you want people to share pics of the car, you have to go ALL-OUT. Cover the entire car. Covering half the car is going it half-way. Do NASCAR racers run only half the race? No, they go ALL THE WAY. That is, unless they crash, then their race is done.

If they really want to promote the race with a logo, then put a sign next to the car. Put a bunch of signs around the car. Make it so you can’t take a photo of the car without the sign. But please, cover the whole car with the art.

Update April 2, 2024

NASCARchicago on Twitter posted a photo of last year’s NASCAR Chicago winner standing in front of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting in the Art Institute.

Checking out some of the art at the 
@artinstitutechi with the inaugural Chicago Street Race champ, @shanevg97 🏁🖼️

My brain is still processing the meaning of a man holding a NASCAR trophy standing in front an O’Keeffe painting. The tweet doesn’t even mention O’Keeffe as the artist whose painting is wrapping the NASCAR pace car this year.

Nor does it mention the Chicago connection behind the trophy. It was designed by School of the Art Institute of Chicago alumni Thomas Lucas. He’s based out of his Ravenswood Studio in Chicago.

Enjoyed this blog post?

Join the creatives who receive thoughtful Spudart blog posts via the email newsletter

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Erik M
4 months ago

I just hope it’s not a portrait of O’Keefe sitting backwards in the back seat like Vince.

The cow skull on the car hood makes sense. Or finding a way to wrap “Sky Above Clouds IV” around the entire car could be fun.

Certainly this is an extension of NASCAR’s efforts to reach new audiences. At the end of the day, I appreciate the effort. Why not. Try new things. And vice versa, bringing art to the NASCAR world is a way to introduce new culture to that crowd.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x