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The Motorcycle: Design ~ Art ~ Desire

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  • The Motorcycle: Design ~ Art ~ Desire

    As background, just over twenty years ago Ultan Guilfoyle and I (Charles Falco) were co-curators of the record-breaking 'The Art of the Motorcycle' exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. During its time at the Guggenheim in New York, Chicago, Bilbao (Spain), and Las Vegas over 2 million visitors saw the motorcycles we selected, a quarter-million bought the 432-page catalog, and countless others watched programs about them on television and read about them in upwards of a thousand magazine and newspaper stories.

    Officially announced yesterday is that Ultan and I are now creating a completely re-imagined look at the past, present, and future of motorcycles with the title 'The Motorcycle: Design ~ Art ~ Desire'. The exhibition, drawing from the the world's most significant collections, will open at the Queensland Art Gallery|Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in Brisbane on 28 November 2020 as their summer blockbuster and run through April 25, 2021. QAGOMA is one of Australia's most important visual arts institutions with more than one million visitors annually, 30 percent from interstate and overseas, making it equivalent in mission and attendance to the Guggenheim. We also are in initial discussions for the exhibition to travel outside Australia following its run in Brisbane. In coming months updates will be found on my Instagram feed @charlesfalco

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    Last edited by BoschZEV; 02-27-2020, 06:00 PM.

  • #2
    Despite the pandemic, 'The Motorcycle: Design~Art~Desire' that Ultan Guilfoyle and I co-curated is scheduled to open at the Queensland Art Gallery|Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane as planned on 28 November. With the pandemic as background, and our eyes on the future, this will be the first international design exhibition curated for the post-Covid19 world. Also, irrespective of whatever travel restrictions might be in place at that time, Ultan and I recently completed work on the accompanying 320-page book for Phaidon Press, available from your favorite bookseller at the end of November. On Instagram: @charlesfalco @GAGOMA #MotorcycleGOMA



    • #3
      Thanks for the update, Charles. Will look forward to 'The Motorcycle: Design~Art~Desire' for a Christmas present.
      Eric Smith
      AMCA #886


      • #4
        Originally posted by exeric View Post
        Thanks for the update, Charles. Will look forward to 'The Motorcycle: Design~Art~Desire' for a Christmas present.
        Thanks for that. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


        • #5
          I was able to visit your exhibition, don't remember if it was in NY or in Vegas, must be Vegas if don't remember! But I do remember how much I enjoyed it. I bought the catalog, so I'll have to do some digging to find and revisit it.

          You did a great job, and I hope it makes it back to states some day.
          Best of luck.


          • #6
            Originally posted by TH47Indy View Post
            I hope it makes it back to states some day.
            Our plans were to have the new exhibition travel after Brisbane. But, as you might imagine, plans are a bit uncertain as of now.


            • #7
              Plinths are being fabricated, motorcycles have been crated and are winging their way to Brisbane, and catalog(ues) are beginning to ship from the printer. 'The Motorcycle: Design~Art~Desire' is on schedule to open in just five weeks on 28 November. With the ups and downs in Australia, in April, and again in August, it seemed a safe bet that the exhibition wouldn't take place. But, it now looks like anyone who placed those bets stands to lose their money.

              We couldn't be more pleased that throughout it all everyone stayed the course rather than give up in the face of covid. There has been an average of no more than 1 covid death/day in the entire country of Australia for the past two weeks, whereas ours has been stuck at ~700/day for months. Further, our number of new cases/day has increased by 85% since the middle of September, setting a record yesterday, so an already-bad situation is rapidly getting worse. Per capita, to date Australia lost 10x fewer people than we have, which is equivalent to the U.S. having 22,000 dead rather than the 220,000 we've had to date, a number that continues to rise.

              QAGOMA's workshop has been busy since early September re-configuring the three large room and installing plinths for the bikes. Their film department has created an excellent program to screen during the five-month run, and are deep into the time-consuming task of securing screening rights. Their Public Programs team already has met with several clubs that will stage runs at the time of the exhibition as well as set up their bikes for viewing on the lawn next to the gallery.


              Of course, sadly for us, the raging covid situation in the U.S. means my friend and co-curator Ultan Guilfoyle and I won't be allowed to be there in person. So, instead, we've been busy making high definition videos as a substitute. Over the past two days, from 2000 miles apart, we filmed our respective halves of a virtual tour of exhibition highlights. The final video also will include a third half consisting of stills and videos being shot during the installation and to be interwoven with the videos we just made.
              Last edited by BoschZEV; 10-24-2020, 12:31 PM.


              • #8
                Good to hear that exhibition is still on! I really look forward to seeing the video.
                Are there plans for a print on online catalog?

                I wasn't able to find mine from the Vegas exhibit, but found and purchased a copy in great condition on the big E. I enjoyed revisiting the exhibit.


                • #9
                  Good stuff Charles. Hopefully by Nov 28 the state borders will be open properly again and the interstate folk can get there without having to isolate for 2 weeks on arrival.
                  The signs are all looking good though. Good luck!


                  • #10
                    I was looking forward to attending this event when it opens before, but now that I know your connection with it I look forward to it even more :-)
                    1914 P&M
                    1915 Indian (project)
                    1930 M50 Panther
                    1958 M35sport Panther


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by panthersteve View Post
                      now that I know your connection with it I look forward to it even more
                      I'll take that as a compliment...



                      • #12
                        As an update, I got an email yesterday from someone offering to loan a motorcycle to "the show." If this were a "show," sure, why not? However, Ultan and I could, but likely won't, write an extensive article detailing the many differences between organizing a design exhibition for an international art museum, and a motorcycle show. As a few examples, shows don't involve writing a book, presenting lectures, carefully checking facts, or three years working with professionals from a range of disciplines to help us design the layout and installation specifically for the 100 bikes we selected.

                        As I was changing my clothes this weekend prior to recording my half of a video tour of selected highlights of the exhibition I heard part of an interview with David Byrne ('Talking Heads'). When he was asked about issues he's faced with recording music during these last eight months, he said he's been doing everything except recording music because it is quite different to perform without an audience. I couldn't agree more. I've given public lectures to 2000 people, and it's definitely not the same to speak only to a camera. For me, at least, speaking to an audience of any size is similar to having a conversation, since it's easy to see on the faces whether I'm making a connection and, if not, immediately know that I need to rephrase what I just said. In contrast, succinctly conveying useful and interesting information while speaking to just a camera staring expressionlessly at me requires a script.

                        Anyway, with my half of the virtual tour on tape and edited down to an 8-minute, 3.6 Gb file, the next problem was to upload it to QAGOMA for them to insert stills and video being shot during the installation of the bikes. I tried uploading it from my house overnight over our slow and unreliable DSL connection (where the estimated transfer time was 10-12 hours), but in the morning found, not unexpectedly, that the upload failed. So, I drove to one of my university's wifi hotspots where the upload speed is ~25 Mbps, so it should have taken 20 min. Twice QAGOMA's site issued a timeout error after about 5 min., so I decided to try uploading a heavily compressed version since that should have taken just 4 min. It took nearly 45. I might have blamed seaweed in the trans-Pacific telegraph cable for the sluggish speed, but given the error messages for the larger file, QAGOMA is guilty unless proven innocent.


                        • #13
                          "....QAGOMA is guilty unless proven innocent".

                          Welcome to the internet in Australia...


                          • #14
                            I have been giving this exhibition some more thought and have wondered how it has come about that it is in Brisbane only, or at least for now. Of all the places it could have gone to why here?
                            1914 P&M
                            1915 Indian (project)
                            1930 M50 Panther
                            1958 M35sport Panther


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by panthersteve View Post
                              wondered how it has come about that it is in Brisbane
                              Giving the full background to my answer would require quite a long essay, so I'll try to be as short as possible while still being accurate.

                              'The Art of the Motorcycle' that Ultan Guilfoyle and I curated for the Guggenheim twenty years earlier set an all-time attendance record for them, and in doing so became by far the most heavily-attended design exhibition of all time. As an aside, although design (a beautiful pen, or table, or motorcycle) and art (a Rodan sculpture or Monet painting) have features in common, there is a difference.

                              Ultan and I are both connected to the art world beyond having curated that exhibition.[*] For example, Ultan is former Director of the Filmmaking Department of the Guggenheim, and in his subsequent career as an independent filmmaker has made a number of documentaries about art museums, artists, and architects. I've had a twenty-year collaboration with the artist David Hockney, who is one of the world's most famous living artists (aside: in the opening episode of the new HBO series 'The Undoing' a scene with Nicole Kidman uses the fact a particular couple owns two Hockney paintings to establish how cultured and spectacularly wealthy they are), and as a result I've given public lectures at the Hermitage, Uffizi, Metropolitan, etc., including the National Gallery of Art in Canberra.

                              QAGOMA is led by a Director, Chris Saines, who is quite visionary. When he approached us about doing an exhibition of motorcycle design, both of us already knew it was one of Australia's most significant art museums, and we subsequently learned it has a large fraction of its visitors each year from overseas as well as from across Australia. Although our immediate reaction was neither of us was interested in doing what would be simply an update of 'The Art of the Motorcycle', Chris made clear from the start that he wasn't interested in us doing that, either. Twenty years ago it was revolutionary enough to fill a major art museum with motorcycles, so our approach at that time had to be conservative. Basically, it was ~100 motorcycles in simple chronological order. Today there isn't the same constraint, so our approach could be quite different. And, it is.

                              Anyway, that's a heavily-condensed overview of how the exhibition came into being in the first place, and why it's in Brisbane. That said, from the start we've intended for it to tour after its run in Brisbane. However, discussions with other locations are on hold until the world gets back to normal.

                              Since most people reading this won't be able to see it in Brisbane, the 320-page catalog(ue) we wrote for the exhibition is a worthwhile substitute. It's a heavily-illustrated stand-alone book that looks at the past, present, and future of motorcycles and motorcycle design. For what it's worth, the last I looked, Amazon was taking pre-orders at significantly less than it will retail for after publication.


                              [*] We're both life-long motorcyclists as well. Ultan rode trials in his youth in Ireland, rebuilt a Norton Commando in his office at the Guggenheim while we were working on 'The Art of the Motorcycle', and is currently assembling a BSA Gold Star Catalina from ~2000 separate parts. I got a Honda 50 when I was 15, have never been without at least one motorcycle since then, and completely rebuilt the 1928 Ariel myself that I rode in the 2018 Cannonball.