Ever since the 70s, when Alexander Calder debuted BMW’s first art car, the car as canvas has been embraced by cool-hunting auto manufacturers. (Witness the recent Jeff Koons/BMW collab.) The Milan Furniture Fair has increasingly become the place to view these editions (save for 2008, when a fleet of Fiat 500s, festooned with flowers by the likes of Ron Arad and Arne Quinze, was squashed by the polizia.) Here is a quick look at this year’s offerings.

Lucid Flux, by Moritz Waldemeyer for Audi Audi commissioned Moritz Waldemeyer--who designed Rihanna’s laser-studded shoulder pads--to create Lucid Flux, a high-concept ticker tape of LED-studded polycarbonate strips spooling out in an arc above the A1 subcompact and A8 luxury sedan. Visitors could type into a nearby iPad and see their words dance across the 45-foot installation. Short words like “Audi” worked best; long phrases like “Thanks a million, Eyjafjallajokull,” got a bit lost.

Kvadrat’s The Dwelling Lab, by Patricia Urquiola and Giulio Ridolfo

For a second, it looked as if one of the war vehicles from Mad Max had touched down in a courtyard in Milan’s city center. In fact, the Band-Aid–colored car with megaphone-like appendages was an installation by designers Patricia Urquiola and Giulio Ridolfo.

The duo partnered with fabric-maker Kvadrat and lighting-company Flos to celebrate the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo.
If it sounds insanely corporate, it didn’t feel like it, as the designers used soft neutral fabrics and objects evocative of family road trips to create a familiar, personal sculpture.
Everything you need is here, if you can get the car out of the garage.

Smart Fortwo Sprinkle, by Rolf Sachs

The ’80s influenced Swiss designer Rolf Sachs, whose one-off car for Smart-- rumored to be in consideration for a saleable edition--was covered in primary-colored splatter paint.

Inside were gray felt seats sprinkled with randomly colored buttons...
...and a magnetic dashboard to hold fast the car’s range of accessories, which include a vanity mirror (this seems like a bad idea) and a voodoo doll with sharp pencils to exorcise road rage (even worse).

Bokja Bug

Once in a while, an art car comes along that isn’t actually a promotional vehicle for a car company. On view at Spazio Rossana Orlandi this year, the VW Bug personalized by Lebanese design duo Bokja was salvaged from the streets of Beirut and covered with the kind of colorful vintage textiles and tapestries that the two use in their daily designs.

With its patchwork colors and 60s vibe, it somehow seemed like the most authentic advertisement of them all.