From the curation team that brought us the ‘Art of the Motorcycle’ exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in 1998, comes a new motorcycle exhibit in a very different location.  The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Brisbane, Australia will host ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’, and exhibition of over 100 motorcycles, from a c.1871 Perreaux steam velocipede (also seen at AotM, and on loan from the Musée Sceaux in Paris) to contemporary electric motorcycles of impeccable design.

A 1930 Majestic is a must in any exhibit combining 'art' and 'motorcycle'! Designed by Georges Roy in Paris, the hub-center steered machine is a landmark of radical design. [O. DeVaulx]
The 1930 Majestic, designed by Georges Roy, is a landmark of motorcycle design. [Serge Bueno]
This exhibit reunites the Guggenheim curation team of Ultan Guilfoyle and Charles M. Falco on a new museum show for the first time since 1998.  Ultan Guilfoyle is a filmmaker focussing primarily on architecture, who was given the task of organizing a groundbreaking motorcycle exhibition at the Guggenheim by then-Director Thomas Krens.  Guilfoyle brought Charles M. Falco, a Professor of optical physics at the University of Arizona, on board to help with the monumental task of organizing the Art of the Motorcycle exhibition, which featured over 150 motorcycles in the stunning context of Frank Lloyd Wright’s New York City museum.  The exhibit seemed made for the space, with its descending spiral galleries making a seamless 130-year chronological timeline, with the Perreaux steam cycle on the floor of the Guggenheim’s atrium as the star attraction.  It remains the top-attended exhibit of that museum, and it’s a wonder it took over 20 years for another major museum to mount their own exhibit on the theme of motorcycles.

Curator Ultan Guilfoyle with a few of his friends in New York. [Ultan Guilfoyle]
Guilfoyle and Falco (both friends of the writer) have dropped hints for the past year that something big was coming in Brisbane, and now the news can be spread.  The new exhibit at GoMA Brisbane (also called QAGoMA) will cover new ground from the AoTM exhibit, and is more focussed on motorcycle design per se, with an almost entirely new cast of ‘characters’, including hugely important developments in the motorcycle industry since 1998, including the then-nonexistent electric motorcycle scene.  The exhibit will run from November 28 2020 through April 26 2021.  Plenty of time to plan a visit, in other words!

Physicists and motorcycle historian Charles M. Falco as seen on the 2018 Motorcycle Cannonball with his 1928 Ariel single. [Paul d’Orléans]
The exhibition has received significant support from the Queensland government, who expect a boost in tourism. Tourism Industry Development Minister Kate Jones explained support for ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’: “We invest in events because they support local jobs. Tourists want to experience something they can’t get anywhere else when they’re on holiday. Bringing this exhibition exclusively to Queensland will be a major drawcard for thousands of tourists. We expect this exhibition alone to generate more than 63,000 visitor nights for local businesses.”

The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) in Brisbane, Australia. [Wikipedia]
The AotM Guggenheim exhibit was criticized in its day for receiving major sponsorship from BMW, who included a display of newly available models in the Guggenheim: today such commercial sponsorships are common, and even vital given the drastic cuts in US gov’t funding of the arts since the 1980s.  TheVintagent’s parent organization, the non-profit Motorcycle Arts Foundation, has itself gratefully accepted donations from commercial sponsors for our exhibits at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles: such is the modern dilemna, and funding solution, for arts orgs. The Queensland gov’t understands that a major exhibition is an excellent tourist draw: with over 350,000 attendees to the AotM exhibit at the Guggenheim alone (the exhibit also traveled to Las Vegas, Chicago, and Bilbao, Spain), surely the impact on its various host cities’ economies was significant.

The Perreaux steam velocipede, now thought to be built circa 1871, seen here in front of its home, the Musée Sceaux in Paris. [Olivier Ravoire]
The ‘Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’ exhibit will of course be accompanied by a gorgeous hardback catalogue: let’s hope Charles Falco updates his excellent bibliography found in the AotM catalogue!  We’ll keep you posted on developments with the exhibit as we’re allowed.

The Britten V1000 racer of 1991, worthy of inclusion in any art museum. [Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.]


Paul d’Orléans is the founder of He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.
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