‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’, our world-exclusive exhibition, only in Brisbane, opens at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) from 28 November 2020 to 26 April 2021.

‘The Motorcycle’ will feature the most iconic, innovative and influential motorcycles created over the last 150 years. From The Great Escape, and Easy Rider to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2, motorcycles have been a mainstay of popular culture for decades and continue to provide endless fascination for millions of people around the world.

Tickets to ‘The Motorcycle’ now on sale

The streamlined torpedo embodying the Art Deco aesthetic of the day, the Majestic 350 was introduced at the 1929 Paris Show / Majestic, France / Majestic 350 1930 / Photography: Olivier de Vaulx

The exhibition will tap into the appeal of this iconic object of design and art through an immersive installation experience, featuring more than 100 motorcycles from the 1860s to the present day, and drawn from private and public collections across the globe. It includes the earliest 19th century steam-powered motorcycle, right through to electric motorcycles and exciting design propositions for the future.

Michaux-Perreaux steam vélocipède 1869 / Collection: Du Musée du Domaine Départemental / Photograph: Olivier Ravoire

Over its 150-year history, the motorcycle has undergone extraordinary reinvention, from steam power to petrol fuelled internal combustion engines to battery, and from humble backyard creations to custom-made, high-tech chrome speed machines.

More than just a means of transport, the motorcycle is a design object, with forms and styles that reflect innumerable cultural and societal influences. This is a comprehensive survey of a universal machine designed to inspire freedom and escape through affordable mobility.

The Vincent Black Lightning was built at the Vincent works in UK, and produced from 1948 to 1952, at the time it was the fastest production motorcycle in the world / Vincent 998cc Black Lightning, Australia 1951 / © Bonhams Auctioneers

At this turning point in the way the world thinks about powered transport, ‘The Motorcycle’ will be a timely celebration of exquisite design and a look at what the future holds.

The exhibition includes interactive experiences, and will appeal not only to bike and motor sport enthusiasts but to anyone curious about social history, popular culture, design and technology.  

Highlights include:

  • A 1868 Michaux-Perraux, the first steam powered velocipede and oldest known motorcycle in the world;
  • The earliest Australian designed and built machines including a Spencer produced in Brisbane in 1906;
  • A 1951 Vincent Black Lightning that set an Australian land speed record in its day and more recently a world record for the highest price paid at auction for a motorcycle;
  • Symbols of speed from a 1930s Triumph Speed Twin to a 1970s Ducati 750 Super Sport to the 1990s Britten V1000;
  • Off-road motorcycles highlighting a rich history of bikes built for dust and dirt;
  • Customised motorcycles at the intersection of art and design;
  • Ultra-modern electric motorcycles, demonstrating the future of transportation in the age of renewable energy.

The Megola was produced in Germany from 1921 to 1925. Designed by Fritz Cockerell, the Megola was uniquely powered by a 640cc five-cylinder radial engine that was built into the front wheel / Megola 640cc Touring Model, Germany 1922 / © Bonhams Auctioneers

The New Zealand-built Britten V1000 shocked the motorcycle world with its innovative design, and made a legend of its creator, John Britten, the bike setting world land speed records in 1994 / Britten Motorcycle Company Ltd, Christchurch / Britten V1000 1991 / Purchased 1995 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds / Collection: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa / Britten Motorcycle Company Ltd, Christchurch / Britten V1000 1991 / Purchased 1995 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds / Collection: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

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‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’ is curated by renowned design curators, physicist Professor Charles M. Falco and writer and filmmaker Ultan Guilfoyle, in collaboration with QAGOMA. Supported by the Queensland Government through Tourism and Events Queensland.

Feature image: Majestic, France / Majestic 350 1930 / Photography: Olivier de Vaulx

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