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Virgil Abloh and Mercedes-Benz Turn the G-Class into a Race Car for Project Geländewagen

From Left: Gorden Wagener, creative director for Mercedes-Benz and Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White and men’s artistic director for Louis Vuitton. Photo: Bafic/Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz AG

On September 8, Gorden Wagener and Bettina Fetzer of Mercedes-Benz and Virgil Abloh came together virtually to give an exclusive preview of Project Geländewagen ahead of the global reveal. The highly-anticipated collaboration between the worlds of art, fashion, and automotive turned out to be an impressive reimagination of the off-road G-Class as a race car.

Original Mercedes-AMG G63. Photo: Bafic/Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz AG

Mercedes-Benz Project Geländewagen. Photo: Bafic/Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz AG

Through this conceptual design piece, Abloh and Wagener seek to disrupt our perceptions of luxury for the future by taking it away from the notion of perfection and to one that is more raw and natural. “Luxury should be modernized over time,” Abloh said of the mindset behind Project Geländewagen. This, they have strived to achieve by stripping off all unnecessary details from the G-Class, as Mercedes-Benz Chief Design Officer Wagener explained it. The one-of-its-kind sportier incarnation of the G-Class features exaggerated tires and a body that is much wider and lower to the ground as part of “maximizing its on-road potential,” according to Abloh.

Photo: Bafic/Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz AG

It has a cleaner exterior to further drive home its monolithic character while also allowing the G-Class’s iconic silhouette to make a statement on its own. Handcrafted imperfections add to the rawness of the project which is seen in the partially hand-sanded paint job of the car. The concept of reduction of elements remains strong inside the art piece as well, with the majority of the interiors including the dashboard stripped back. Unlike the exterior of the car, a color palette of contrasting shades of pale blue and a bright red immediately stands out against the bare interiors.

Photo: Bafic/Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz AG

Although Wagener describes the project to be “like an art installation,” it is evident that it serves a bigger purpose. For Abloh, this means continuing to inspire young creatives to push boundaries. “My ultimate goal in this project with Mercedes-Benz is inspiring young artists, engineers, designers to question the status quo, in addition to experimenting with my own design abilities,” said Abloh during the preview. “For me, it’s all about providing opportunities for those coming after me and giving this next generation a foundation for success, both here with Mercedes-Benz and through my own Virgil Abloh ‘Post-Modern’ Scholarship Fund.”

While Wagener stated: “With Project Geländewagen we create a unique artwork that showcases future interpretations of luxury and the desire for beauty and the extraordinary. The result is something between reality and future. The collaboration with Virgil has seen two distinct design philosophies unite, for a one-of-a-kind re-imagination of the G that continues to celebrate the extraordinary at its core.”

In a bid to support the arts scene at this time, a replica of the design piece will be auctioned as part of Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated, with proceeds going to a charity that supports international creative communities.

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