MINI Insider

Part of Shawna X's Rooftop Artwork

What would your MINI rooftop design look like?

 

If you could design a MINI rooftop, what would you paint on it? That’s the question MINI USA asked three artists with a culturally diverse background in 2021. We wanted them to use our most valuable canvas to tell their diverse stories through art. Now, we’re digging deeper and showing you their artistic process, and what they thought of MINI’s Big Love philosophy.

Rich Tu in his workshop

 

 

Three artists, three worlds.

 

The three artists all brought their unique cultural heritage to the table.Rich Tu is a first generation Filipino-American who’s been creating art and vibrant works of graphic design, mostly in New York, for more than a decade. He has worked across multiple disciplines, but whether he’s designing sports shoes, public art or MINI rooftops, diversity and the immigrant experience shapes a lot of what he makes.

Shawna X spent her early childhood in Xiamen, China, then grew up in Portland, Oregon, before moving to Brooklyn, New York City. In a life full of transformational human experiences, Shawna has become a mother of two, which has also become an important influence on her work. 

Shane Griffin, or Grif, was born in Ireland. The award-winning experimental multidisciplinary visual artist and director later took up residence in New York. Known for his technology-driven surreal and abstract art, he has since collaborated with many pop culture icons, including Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Wiz Khalifa.

MINI Cooper SE
MINI Cooper SE: Energy consumption in kWh/100 km combined: 17.6 – 15.2 (WLTP); Fuel consumption in l/100 km combined: 0, CO2 emissions in g/km combined: 0, electric range in km: 234 - 203 (WLTP)
Rich Tu quote

The well of inspiration.

 

To an artist, the canvas or setting where they create their artwork can be a compelling part of the creative process. And spaces don’t get more exclusive than the iconic rooftop of a MINI. As Rich Tu puts it: “What I loved about this project is that it opens up a space – which was traditionally held for iconic visuals like the Union Jack – to a global community, through my personal lens. That was really compelling.”

But once you have the canvas, where does the inspiration come from, what’s the design process like? In the spirit of Big Love, we asked the artists to celebrate their heritage and backgrounds through our rooftops. And that means something different to everyone.

Shawna X
Shawna X's artwork

 

 

“It’s a visual representation of the journey of my upbringing and finding identity, [...] building upon layers of colours, linework to create the dynamic representation of my experience. My work is defined by being a person who is on a journey to reconnect to all their selves as a child, a mother, a human!” – Shawna X. 

 

 

 

 

"[First,] it feels weightless and free, there’s the feeling of motion in it, and that came from the energy of NYC, the freedom of the people who live here to be and try anything. Second was about diversity and the blending of cultures here. NYC is somewhat unique in that regard, not every city has the luxury of such a diverse group of inhabitants, so communicating that through colour felt like the natural complement to the shape.” – Grif.

 

 

Grif's artwork
Grif
Rich Tu

 

“It's very much in myself, so it's high energy, it's bold. If I could decode the imagery, then like the hand, the eye are the most personal parts of yourself, and you experience the world through these senses. It's about really taking ownership of your story, and loosely inspired by the Filipino flag. It also has a lot floral elements inspired by the Sampaguita flower which is the National Flower of the Philippines.” – Rich Tu.

 

 

Rich Tu's artwork

Why MINI matters.

 

Why do they think it’s so important for their artwork to appear on a car roof? As Shawna X puts it, “I’m sad when art is exclusively displayed and enclosed in someone’s home, and nobody else can appreciate it. I believe art is intrinsic to culture, humanity, and when it’s accessible it creates a more thoughtful environment for all.” Rich also saw the potential of the artwork to spread the message of Big Love: “If someone buys this car, and incorporates it into their lives, that’s the most I can hope for. Because they would take something so personal to me and incorporate it into their personal experience. And in the end, if they’re also inspired by it, and give back into the ecosystem, well, that’s awesome.” Grif also highlights another aspect of why the rooftop is important in the age of digital artworks: “Seeing physical work always feels different, the final product in every medium feels different to me, [...]. It’s about context, and the way an audience or the public will engage with it. I hope people see the MINI rooftop from windows and think ‘Wow, what am I looking at?’ [...]. I hope it causes them to stop and take it in for a beat.”

 

 

Rich Tu in his workshop

What about what’s under the roof?

 

At MINI, we are of course very proud of our cars, and how they look. But what do professional artists think? 

Grif is impressed: “MINI is a classic. I love how its maintained that classic brand equity over the years. I remember seeing ‘The Italian Job’ as a kid and thinking ‘That’s so-so cool, I love those cars’. Even though the internals of the car have changed completely, the exterior design has just got a bit better, but retained all that makes it cool…” But could he see himself designing a concept car? That seems like a step too far, at least for now: “I’d love to, but I’m not sure my instincts are that of a product or automotive designer. Never say never though, it sounds like a challenge, and I love a challenge!” 

MINI Cooper SE

For Shawna X, designing a car would be an opportunity to expand on her Rooftop project and showcase more of her art and personality: “One day I would love to create not just the art for the [vinyl] wrap, but the overall shape, and features of a car! Something that has style in addition to safety, even little touches that showcase a personality and story.” 

On the other hand, Rich Tu is simply enthused by all the possibilities of car design. 

[Design a car?] “I’d love that, I'd just do random stuff. I love to mishmash stuff, so I’d probably make it have angular lines and make it rear-wheel drive; just take random parts from my favourite pieces of stuff that I recognised from my childhood and anything that hits me in my emotional centre. And you know, bash it together until I had the car that I love.”  

 

 

Rich Tu artwork

But would he do the same to a MINI? Not necessarily: 

 “I actually quite like it from a design perspective. I love those classic lines, its European car aesthetic. Its overall size, shape and proportions are so unlike other cars that I see here in New York City, or in America in general. I love a boxy car, and the MINI with its round lines just feels extremely European. It’s comforting, but also has a sense of humour about itself. You could really trace back that specific aesthetic through the years.” But it’s not just about the looks: "I think a lot of this is about the community. If you drive a MINI, you’re in a community.”  Or to put it much more simply: "You know what I think? I think MINI cars are dope.” And if you’re us, it doesn’t get much better than a compliment like that. 

 

 

Rich Tu's story

To read more about our project, click here.