Object of desire: The Motorcycle

 

The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’, our world-exclusive exhibition, only in Brisbane, is on view across the Gallery of Modern Art’s (GOMA) entire ground floor until 26 April 2021.

The Motorcycle’ will feature 100 of the most iconic, innovative and influential motorcycles created over the last 150 years. From The Great Escape (1953), and Easy Rider (1969) to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2 (1991), motorcycles have been a mainstay of popular culture for decades and continue to provide endless fascination for millions of people around the world.

Get your motor running: Exclusive to GOMA

Watch as we install ‘The Motorcycle’ exhibition

Get tickets to ‘The Motorcycle’ exhibition

‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) / Photograph: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA

Majestic c.1929

DELVE DEEPER: Honouring our past by celebrating our future: The Majestic c.1929 and Fuller Moto ‘2029’

Majestic c.1929 / Collection: Bobby Haas and Haas Moto Museum / © Haas Moto Galleries LLC / Photograph: Grant Schwingle

The exhibition taps 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.

DELVE DEEPER: Browse the FULL LIST OF MOTORCYCLES from humble origins to cutting-edge prototypes

RELATED: Read more about the bikes on display

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Perreaux Steam Velocipede 1871 

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.

Vincent Black Lightning 1951

DELVE DEEPER: Vincent Black Lightning: The fastest production motorcycle for its time

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 — a green screen motorcycle riding experience, a motorcycle design studio for building and customising virtual bikes, and an in-space mobile companion site which enables audiences to navigate the show and dive deeper into the history and stories behind each bike on display — 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:

  • An 1871 Perreaux, 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.

Spencer c.1906

DELVE DEEPER: Brisbane Born: The Spencer motorcycle story

Spencer c.1906 / Courtesy: The Australian Motorlife Museum – Paul Butler Collection / Photograph: Penelope Clay
Spencer branding on the c.1906 Spencer motorcycle / Spencer motorcycle c.1906 / Courtesy: The Australian Motorlife Museum – Paul Butler Collection / Photograph: Penelope Clay

Ducati 750SS 1974

Ducati 750SS 1974 / Private Collection / Photograph: John Downs

Britten V1000 1994

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.

Deus Ex Machina ‘The Drover’s Dog’ 2009

DELVE DEEPER: Deus Ex Machina’s ‘Drover’s Dog’ is the perfect surf bike

 
Deus Ex Machina ‘The Drover’s Dog’ 2009 / Collection: Joseph Mildren/Deus Ex Machina, Sydney / Image courtesy: Deus Ex Machina

 Fuller Moto ‘2029’ 2019

DELVE DEEPER: Honouring our past by celebrating our future: The Majestic c.1929 and Fuller Moto ‘2029’

Fuller Moto ‘2029’, 2019 / Collection: Bobby Haas and Haas Moto Museum / © Haas Moto Galleries LLC / Photograph: Grant Schwingle

Watch: Motorcycles on Screen

In association with ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’, the Australian Cinémathèque at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) presents the free program ‘Motorcycles on Screen’, which explores the rich history of the vehicle in cinema, from the silent era to today. ‘Motorcycles on Screen’ runs until 25 April 2021.

Production still from The Wild One 1953 / Director: László Benedek / Image courtesy: Park Circus

Buy ‘The Motorcycle’ publication

With over 320 pages and 400 colour illustrations, The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire showcases 100 superb examples of motorcycle design from the late 19th century to the present day and beyond to the technological innovations of the future. Beautifully illustrated with newly commissioned photography and archival ephemera, this visually arresting survey of the motorcycle’s influence in realms as diverse as film, fashion, sport, advertising, and technology will prove compulsive reading to design lovers and motorcycle fans alike. Available at the QAGOMA Store and online

Read more about Motorcycles / Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to watch behind-the-scenes profiles

Featured image: 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

Show off your ride with #MotorcycleGOMA #QAGOMA

Comments

  1. This is an excellent article on motorcycles. I really look forward to being in Brisbane in Nov this year for the exhibition!

    Justin

  2. THE MOTORCYCLE: OBJECT OF DESIRE. Wow. Motorcycles are the ultimate art fuses with machine collision in the history of man. Powering over the Earth on two wheels just by turning your wrist a bit. The air in your face, your shirt flapping in the wind. Freedom, danger, adrenaline, art. Thank you.

  3. Any chance of this going on tour? I guess not in the current environment. I would love to see this in Perth at some stage. Alternately, any thoughts on presenting this digitally as other galleries are doing with some of their installations?

  4. Hi Tom. ‘The Motorcycle’ is exclusive to Brisbane, however keep dipping into the QAGOMA blog as we will have regular profiles on the exhibition design and bikes. Regards QAGOMA

  5. Loving this exhibition … So just to be sure before I click complete … It’s bikes as well as info and pictures and interactions ?

  6. Are there restrictions on number of people allowed to attend venue this Sunday coming.

  7. Hi Cheryl, yes, beside some 100 bikes, the exhibition will feature a range of immersive interactives to enhance the visitor experience. Discover more about the art, design and historical context of each bike through the exhibition companion website (available on site, so bring your mobile device)). Take a virtual seat on a 1950s Vespa, 1960s Dirt Bike or an Electric ‘Future’ Bike and go riding in real-time through a themed landscape. Spend some time building and customising your own bike, on a touch-screen interactive, maybe with a little help from our virtual Ellaspede consultant. Visit https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/themotorcycle for a range of related opening weekend events. Enjoy your visit, QAGOMA

  8. Hi Rod, you will be required to provide your name and contact details on arrival at the Gallery, to support contact tracing, and there will be distance markers for queuing, to help keep you safe. Other than that, enjoy your visit, Regards QAGOMA

  9. Channel 7 news item mentioned the “World’s Fastest Indian” being on display, but I cannot find any reference to it on this page. Can you please confirm if it will be there and for how long, as I imagine it would be wanted back in Invercargill for the annual Burt Munroe Challenge in February. Cheers

  10. Hi Dave, Burt Munro’s Indian Scout Special 1920 (Engine) is indeed in the exhibition, you can view it until 26 Apr 2021. Regards QAGOMA

  11. Hi Brenden. Photography (without flash) for private purposes is allowed within The Motorcycle exhibition, however using tripods within the Art Gallery as a whole is not permitted for the safely of the works. Enjoy your visit, regards QAGOMA

  12. is there a list of all the bikes on display? V1000 is enough to get me in the door tho….

  13. Hi Sam, there isn’t a complete list online as such, just our regular blog highlights, however within the space there is. If you open all our blogs you will see various installed photos which might help. Enjoy your visit, regards QAGOMA

  14. Hi Sam, thanks for your suggestion, tomorrow in our blog ‘The Motorcycle: From humble origins to cutting-edge prototypes’ we list all the motorcycles on display by year from 1871 until 2020. Enjoy, Regards QAGOMA

  15. Did you show the icon of Art Deco, the R7 developed by Alfred Boening for BMW?
    Only one prototype was manufactured and then boxed up as it would have been too expensive. A couple of years ago the box was discovered, the bike restored and is now at the BMW museum in Munich. A manufacturer in Miami, NMoto has recently purchased the rights to manufacture a series based on The R7.
    Alfred was a genial engineer and director of BMW.

  16. Hi Sonia, thanks for sharing your update on the 1934 BMW R7, we do however have the Art Deco inspired 1929 Majestic on display. Regards QAGOMA

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