The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane
I have never driven a motorcycle before, nor a car.

But tell me about the history, the design, and technology involves in each unit and I am all ears.

The motorcycle is not just a vehicle for many. It is considered as one of the big boys’ toys and if you meet a passionate motorcycle collector, you will understand what I meant.

So, for the sake of enriching my new Australian life and culture, I took my husband to the motorcycle exhibition couple of months ago, and learn about the crème de la crème of motorcycles.




The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

For someone like me who doesn’t know anything about motorcycle (except for occasional glance at those I find it truly stylish), I find this exhibition a great way to expand my horizon in the world of urban life, including its art form and design.

Yes, I realized that motorcycles are also an art form.

‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’ opens the throttle on the ground-breaking designs that shaped one of the most iconic objects the world has ever seen.

This exhibition features radical concepts, record breakers, and road icons, the fully-immersive exhibition showcases 100 of the greatest motorcycles ever assembled.

Modeled on the hugely successful ‘Art of the Motorcycle’ exhibition first held at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 1998, The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire was curated by the same team – Charles B. Falco and Ultan Guilfoyle – that curated that groundbreaking exhibition, but what will be on show in Brisbane’s GOMA is no mere rehashing of what was presented 20 years ago.

Firstly, many of the bikes in the exhibition have been sourced from Australian collections and have significant Australian history. Rarities, one-offs, race bikes, and Australian-made specials will feature, while the boom in the custom bike scene is also covered. More importantly, the current shift from internal combustion engines to electric power is also showcased – an element unseen in previous motorcycle art exhibitions and one that “looks forward” to the future of the motorcycle, as well as looking back at motorcycling’s past.

More than a year in the planning and curating, The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire has sourced bikes from all over the world, chosen for their significance in motorcycle development, groundbreaking aesthetics, built-for-purpose simplicity, or just because they’re beautiful pieces of design.

The exhibition opens last 28 November 2020 and runs to 26 April 2021, so hopefully, the worst of COVID-19 will be over and those outside of Queensland will be able to travel interstate and see this exhibition for themselves.




Here are just some of the 100+ motorcycles feature in The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire


1871 Perreaux Steam Velocipede

1871 Perreaux Steam Velocipede
This velocipede made by Frenchman Louis-Guillaum Perreaux is generally regarded as one of the first motorcycles ever built, with different sources citing its date of creation as between 1867 and 1871. This incredible feat of mechanical ingenuity is a modified ‘boneshaker’ Michaux bicycle powered by a steam engine. With wood and iron-banded wheels, flimsy handlebars, and a high seat perched precariously above the brass-plated boiling steam engine with an alcohol fuel burner, the Perreaux was capable of about 14km/h and would have been an uncomfortable, yet revolutionary, mode of traveling Paris’s cobblestone streets.

Source: Department of Hauts-de-Seine, Museum of the Department Domain of Sceaux, France


1903 Minerva with Mills and Fulford Forecar

1903 Minerva with Mills and Fulford Forecar
For more than 100 years, motorcycle passengers have sat behind the rider, on either the same long seat or on a separate ‘pillion’ seat. A second option – the sidecar – allows for carrying two and sometimes more riders.

Who would have thought that motorcycles with sidecar will be as stylish back then?

Source: Bobby Haas and Haas Moto Museum, USA





1906 Spencer

1906 Spencer
While not the oldest motorcycle in the exhibition, the Spencer is perhaps one of the most significant, at least from an Australian perspective, as it was one of the first bikes to be almost entirely manufactured in this country. While many veteran-era Australian motorcycles matched imported engines to locally-manufactured frames and cycle parts, almost everything on the bike released by David Spencer in 1906 was designed and built in-house.

One of ten built and thought to be the only complete example, the Spencer on the show is also a very “local” bike, as it was built in the Brisbane suburb of Auchenflower, only minutes away from the exhibition space at GOMA.

The original timber castings for the engine will also be displayed with the bike.

Source: The Australian Motorlife Museum, Wollongong – Paul Butler Collection


1912 Henderson Four

1912 Henderson Four
The tandem-seat layout is the first thing you notice about the American-made Henderson, but what was more important was its mechanical componentry, which was advanced for the period and exceptional given this was the first motorcycle Henderson produced. The specification included a crank-start 965cc (60ci) four-cylinder engine with mechanical valves and splash lubrication, dual pedals for the rear brake, a magneto, and a clutch – the latter feature virtually unheard of when this bike debuted in 1912.
Two American adventurers had enough faith in the Henderson Four that they attempted to ride a pair of them around the world. One rider dropped out within days, but the other rode on, completing the journey ten months and more than 18,000 miles later.  

Only six Henderson Fours from the first year of production are thought to exist worldwide.

Source: Clyde Crouch Collection




1920 Indian Scout Streamliner

1920 Indian Scout Streamliner
No, this isn’t the streamliner you may remember from The World’s Fastest Indian, nor the one you may have seen in Invercargill, but it is a genuine Burt Munro Indian streamliner.

Munro refined and modified his design across the course of his numerous visits to the Bonneville Salt Flats, but shipping the bike and all its components back and forth was expensive. As such, Munro would leave frame, streamliner bodies, and other parts in the US, bringing just the engines and gearboxes back with him to New Zealand for further development.

Claimed to be one of two surviving genuine Burt Munro streamliners, this bike was used in 1967 – Munro’s seventh and last Bonneville campaign – and the one on which he set an SA 1000 class land speed record that stood unbroken for 50 years.

Source: Clyde Crouch Collection


1940 Indian Chief outfit

1940 Indian Chief outfit
Before Charles Falco and Ultan Guilfoyle even came to Australia to search for bikes to include in The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire, they were aware of Peter Arundel, as his collection of historic Indians is not only the best in Australia, but arguably one of the biggest and best in the world, too.
Significantly, many of the bikes from Arundel’s collection have long Australian histories, either in civilian, military, or competition use.

The 1940 Chief outfit was selected for the exhibition due to its distinctive design features, notably the deeply balanced mudguards that debuted on Chiefs that year, while the factory sidecar is a design object in its own right. Other Indians from Arundel’s collection in the exhibition include a 1916 8-valve racer, a 1926 hillclimber, and a 1928 ‘401’ four-cylinder model.

Source: Arundel Collection




1941 Harley-Davidson knucklehead chopper (1973 build)

1941 Harley-Davidson knucklehead chopper
This motorcycle has a JUST BIKES connection, of sorts, as it was on display with long-term JUST BIKES advertisers Antique Motorcycles in Cheltenham.

Representing chopper design from the 1970s, this knucklehead-based custom has all the category’s signature styling cues, from the extreme rake to the hardtail rear, ape hanger bars, candy twist springer fork, modified lighting, front brake delete, and custom paint job.

Several original-era choppers were considered for the exhibition, including an Easy Rider ‘Captain America’ bike, but this one was chosen as it not only represents the style but is also Australian-owned.
Built in New York around 1973, this chopper was part of a collection in New Jersey for many years before it came to Australia sometime in the 1990s. The current owner purchased it from Antique Motorcycles.

Source: Private collection, Mackay



1960 Vespa GS150

1960 Vespa GS150
A motorcycle design exhibition simply couldn’t be held without a Vespa being included – it’s a name that’s become synonymous with scooters! Just think about riding a Vespa while enjoying your Italian city tour.

The significance of the GS (Gran Sport) 150 is that it moved Vespa from purely utilitarian transport into the realm of style and speed. With a high-revving engine and four-speed gearbox, the GS 150 could hit close to 100km/h and do it with better road-holding than most of its contemporaries.

This example came from the collection at Vespa House in Melbourne, which has been run by the Tonon family for three generations.

As a mirror to the Vespa – and an additional demonstration of two-wheel transport being adopted by “non-riders” on a large scale after WWII – a 1960 Honda Super Cub is also exhibited.

Source: Vespa Houise and Frank Tonon




2016 Max Hazan Motorworks “The Black Knight”

2016 Max Hazan Motorworks “The Black Knight”
Arguably one of the most original creators in the contemporary custom motorcycle scene, Max Hazan is a builder whose bikes are closer to sculpture than engineering in most instances.

Looking like a land speed record bike from days gone by, ‘The Black Knight’ is based on a 1949 BSA 500 single-engine, but virtually everything attached to it was built from scratch. Standout styling features include the fully-enclosed rear wheel, girder fork-style front end, and glass oil bottle, to name a few. Interestingly, that glass tank was settled on after brass and aluminum tanks were made but deemed to be unsuitable aesthetically.

This particular bike was built specifically for Bobby Haas and is one of more than 200 bikes in his museum.

Source: Bobby Haas and the Haas Moto Museum


2018 Craig Rodsmith ‘Corps Leger’

2018 Craig Rodsmith ‘Corps Leger’
The humble BSA Bantam never looked like this! While the 150cc engine is the same as that which powered hundreds of thousands of Bantam commuters, postie bikes, and farm bikes in the early post-WWII years, everything else is bespoke and from the creative mind of Craig Rodsmith.

Like the Max Hazan bike, Rodsmith’s ‘Corps Leger’ (‘light body’ in French) was created for Bobby Haas and followed Haas’s purchase of another Rodsmith creation.

The name came from the extensive use of lightweight aluminum for the body and disc wheel covers, while the Bantam engine is attached to a completely bespoke frame and suspension. Even the wheels were scratch-built.

While the hand-beaten body gives Corps Leger a futuristic, Jetsons-style twist, the white rubber tires evoke veteran board track racers.

Source: Bobby Haas and the Haas Moto Museum




2019 Cake Kalk OR

2019 Cake Kalk OR
Electric motorcycles are a particular focus of this exhibition, with the Swedish-built Cake Kalk OR representing the future of motorcycling.

With so many electric motorcycle companies coming and going, choosing which electric motorcycles to display could have pulled the curators in a dozen different ways, but being a design exhibition, the Cake won out for its brutally simple (and dare we say, very Scandinavian) aesthetic and monochrome palette.
Visible within the Kalk OR’s 6061 aluminum frame and carbon fiber body is an 11kW electric motor, powered by a 2.6kWh battery, which can be fitted singly or as one of a pair for extended range. Being Cake’s off-road model, the Kalk OR has 300mm ground clearance, knobby tires, and MX-spec Öhlins suspension, which offer 204mm front and 205mm rear travel.

Source: Cake


2020 Savic Alpha

2020 Savic Alpha
A new player in the industry, Savic is bringing new energy to the electric motorcycle scene, too. This Australian-made bike completes the circle of local motorcycle production that started with the Spencer more than a century ago.

The unit to be displayed in Brisbane is the premium C-Series ‘Alpha’ with 60kW and 180Nm output from its 3-phase electric motor and a 200km range from its 11kWh battery pack. To this, Savic adds a backbone frame and single-sided swingarm, while the bodywork has shades of café racer in the tank and tail treatment.

At the time of writing, more than half of the 49-unit run of C-Series founder’s editions had been accounted for, which shows this Aussie startup has hit the right mix of technology, performance, and style that electric motorcycle adopters are looking for.

Source: Savic Motorcycles





Other motorcycles with topnotch aesthetics:


The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

If our blog has whetted your appetite for speed and kickass design, and if COVID restrictions in your area allow, make sure you get to this exhibition at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art before the 26th of April 2021.

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

The chance to see more than 100 motorcycles representing the history and future of motorcycle design can’t be seen anywhere else in Australia other than GOMA in Brisbane – the exhibition will not travel to other Australian cities.

The Motorcycle Exhibition at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane

Even if you’re not an avid motorcyclist, there’s an abundance to see and experience at this exhibition, including:

* a cinema program that explores depictions of motorcycles in movies from around the world, from classics like Easy Rider and The Wild One to anime, arthouse films, and even the Finke Desert Race!

* Interactive activities, including virtual rides on a 1950s Vespa, 1960s dirt bike, and electric ‘future bike’

* Motorcycle helmets individualized by fifteen cutting-edge Australian artists in the ‘Full Face: Artists’ Helmets’ display


The exhibition has a COVID-SAFE plan in place, including limited entry numbers and contact tracing, both on arrival at GOMA and at the exhibition ticket desk.

A high-quality, 320-page hardcover book – written by Charles M. Falco and Ultan Guilfoyle, with 400 color photos and featuring all the bikes from the exhibition – has been compiled and is currently available to pre-order.


Tickets for The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire are now available for pre-purchase, with prices starting at $25.00 for adults, $20.00 concession, $10.00 children (5-12yo), and $60.00 for a family. Discounts are available for QAGOMA members.

To purchase tickets, go to qagoma.qtix.com.au
For more exhibition information, including updates and more details on GOMA’s COVID-SAFE plan, go to qagoma.qld.gov.au


The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire
28 Nov, 2020 – 26 Apr, 2021
Queensland Gallery of Modern Art
Stanley Place, South Brisbane


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8 comments :

  1. Oh how very interesting the first motorbikes have been. :) Yes, it IS art in the eyes of a collector. Parang cars din yan.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I literally shared this article to my former boss in the corporate world 'cause I know how much he loves these kind of motorcyles. But damn, they're dope! If I'd choose one of these, I'm probably choosing the first photo under the topnotch aesthetic motorcyles. I mean...look at the aesthetic! Minimalist color and very sleek and classy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great exhibition. It feels good just to look at the old pictures. Thanks for sharing this

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  4. My partner is eyeing to own a vespa one day! What is your personal thought about it? Is it a good buy?

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  5. Hello Blair! This is an interesting gallery. We may not understand Motorcycle enthusiasts, but by reading your post, it made me appreciate the intricately-designed art in these vintage pieces. I like how you narrated a bit of the bike's history and background. I liked the 1941 Harley Davidson. It looks classy and elegant.

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  6. Wow! Ang gaganda ng mga designs, kahit na di ako mahilig sa motorcycle. Trivia, ayokong sumakay sa motorcycle, ang thinking ko kasi prone sa accident. HEHE anyways, para sa mga motorcycle riders, this is heaven!

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  7. wow! im definitely sure if my husband sees this he will enjoy it so much. he is a motorcycle enthusiast and he is also a rider!

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  8. Idk how to ride a motorcycle but these are so cool! The 1906 Spencer looks like something from Anne with an E, love it!

    ReplyDelete

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