Artist Frank Stella Dies

Frank Stella, whose laconic pinstripe “black paintings” of the late 1950s closed the door on Abstract Expressionism and pointed the way to an era of cool minimalism, died of lymphoma on May 4, 2024 at his home in the West Village of Manhattan. He was 87.

Mr. Stella was a dominant figure in postwar American art, a restless, relentless innovator whose explorations of color and form made him an outsize presence, endlessly discussed and constantly on exhibit.

frank stella bmw art car 1976
BMW Art Car 02: 1976 BMW 3.0 CSL painted by Frank Stella.

1976 BMW 3.0 CSL

Few American artists of the 20th century arrived with quite his style. He was in his early 20s when his large-scale black paintings — precisely delineated black stripes separated by thin lines of blank canvas — took the art world by storm. Austere, self-referential, opaque, they cast a chilling spell.

In 1976, Stella was commissioned by BMW to paint a BMW 3.0 CSL for the second installment in the BMW Art Car series. He said of the project:

“The starting point for the art cars was racing livery. The graph paper is what it is, a graph, but when it’s morphed over the car’s forms it becomes interesting. Theoretically it’s like painting on a shaped canvas.”