How do you find your place when great artists have already stood in the same spot? And how do you design something that’s already finished? Hanna Schönwald, who is based in Hamburg, mulled over these questions as she faced the challenge of leaving her artistic mark on a Porsche 911 (964). Possessing the firm belief that there isn’t just the one way of doing things, the 26-year-old set out to reinvent the art car, buoyed by a fascination with classic Porsche. The results? Take a look for yourself at a work that more than earns its place on our list of greatest ever Porsche art cars. Here’s how Hanna made it happen.
Reigniting the art car concept
With a number of well-respected artists having created masterpieces in the past, Hanna initially harboured concerns that the topic of art cars was already exhausted. However, this is an artist who spots possibilities in every situation. “Combining both my passions of art and cars felt quite natural to me, so I thought the world can definitely take one more art car,” she explains. Seeing her project as a blank canvas, she set herself a self-imposed restriction not to be influenced directly from art cars that had gone before. Although, she says, there is a special place in her heart for one particularly psychedelic old-timer. “My favourite Porsche art car is Janis Joplin’s 356 C because it’s incredibly hand-painted and has a huge, colourful story to match the boldness of the car.”
Relishing Porsche 964 history
As a classic Porsche enthusiast with a penchant for the 964 and its development history, it was the ideal candidate for the project, Hanna tells us. “The 964 marks the link between the classic 911 and the world of modern sportscars, since the design is still very close to the original, but the technical base has been developed further. Ultimately the performance feels more modern, yet the look is still classic. Afterwards, the 993 changed the appearance of the 911 drastically – that’s why I see the 964 as the last of its kind in many ways.”
Reflecting classic Porsche soul
With the perfect classic Porsche now selected, Hanna drilled down into the details, with the aim to work in harmony with the design of a car she sees as a work of art itself. “As an industrial designer, I look at products through the view that someone actually already created this tangible object,” she says. “It’s already finished. So, rather than put another topic or story over the car, I wanted to work as much as possible with the existing shape.”
Being inspired by the natural reflections in the paint, I saw countless ways to design the car. As for the final artwork you see in the end version? That’s just one of those possibilities
In order to get to know the 964 better before she set herself loose on the car itself, Hanna initially explored the design of the art car in miniature, using model fibreglass sculptures to develop the first drafts. The result was ten different hand-painted studies. “Being inspired by the natural reflections in the paint, I saw countless ways to design the car. As for the final artwork you see in the end version? That’s just one of those possibilities. The process was more of a cooperation between the design of the 964 itself as an artwork itself, and that of my own art.”
Portraiture is a significant focus of Hanna’s work – she uses facial expressions to home in on human emotion. Perhaps surprisingly, she reveals that she was able to bring her experience and expertise in this skill into play in order to help her understand how to work with the shape of the classic Porsche. “A face is very organic, and a car is very technical, clean and symmetrical,” explains Hanna, “but it’s the same technique. I have to see where it’s concave and convex, where I can put shadows and where there is light.”
Having been loaned a 964 by a client, the project began in January 2021. Hanna’s initial prediction was that the Porsche art car would be done and dusted within a couple of weeks. But thanks to a friend encouraging her to document the entirety of the process, the idea evolved into something much larger. “If it had just been me in my own head, I would have made the Porsche art car in my garage alone, and then taken a picture with a smartphone,” she grins. A team was assembled to produce the content. The attention to detail was meticulous, from creating the model sculptures to taping and painting out the final lines, from photo and video productions to final editing. Timing was still tight, with the creation of the art car taking place over just two weeks. But it wasn’t until the end of 2021 that the project was released for the general public to view – almost one year after the project was first concepted.
There was another milestone for Hanna in 2021, as she left her full-time job working as an in-house designer of utility vehicles. It was a role she had taken on after completing her bachelor thesis in industrial design – but, explains Hanna, it was now time to forge her own path. “I quit my job just before starting the Porsche 964 art car,” she says. “As this was my first solo project, there was extra pressure. However, I enjoyed the freedom that came along with that. I believe you should do what you really want to do – not only what you expect yourself to do – and then find a way to make a living out of it.”
Rethinking the art wall
This hasn’t been the only instance where Hanna’s art and classic Porsche have united. She recently took over the Porsche social media accounts – its Instagram, YouTube and Facebook channels – as a guest editor where she created a spectacular art wall. “It felt natural for a 911 to be the centre of attention once again and, with the opportunity to paint on a larger scale, I immediately thought about more extreme and unusual perspectives. A car of extremes for me is the 930 Turbo, with its large whale tail and the wider wheel arches,” she says. As she normally sketches in a much smaller scale, this style of drawing required Hanna to use her whole body, rather than just slight movements of hand and wrist. Other than the issue of time – she completed the project in just two days – the experience came with other unexpected challenges. “One of the hardest things was to try and not fall off the ladder while painting! I think I need a stunt person for the next project,” Hanna adds.
Once completed, there was just one final scene to shoot – the destruction of the piece she had just created. As Hanna threw a bucket of white paint over her art wall, how did it feel to take away what had only existed for such a short period of time? “Once an artwork is finished, for me a large part of the story is told,” she explains. “The process of creating something feels more exciting than the result itself, so I really had no bad feelings about letting it go. I was even relieved because I knew that we only had one take for me to get that paint splash right!” Once again, she was able to document the entire project with a photo and film crew. By doing this, Hanna was able to extend the artwork’s lifespan, potentially, for years and years to come. “I’m glad we documented it. It lives longer this way through the videos and photography,” says Hanna. “It was a beautiful experience bringing together a group of like-minded people who are excited to do something creative with cars and art.”
Next stop? A 911 restoration, done artfully
Hanna has two spectacular Porsche projects under her belt already – and they’ll certainly not be her last. A future ‘project’ of hers it to is to buy a classic Porsche of her own and then to transform it in a rather more traditional fashion. “I want to restore my very own Porsche next year, and document the process once more,” says Hanna. “For this restoration, it’ll ideally be a 911 SC in silver. I can’t wait to get started.”