“The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire” show opens, 22 years after famed Guggenheim exhibitition

There’s a vast new motorcycle exhibition on display at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia, along the lines of the Guggenheim’s legendary Art Of The Motorcycle. 

If you were around the moto scene in 1998, you’ll probably remember the Guggenheim display. It was one of the world’s most famous celebrations of motorcycle design, displaying 100+ machines ranging from the earliest steam-powered cycles of the 1880s to the latest engineering from the 1990s. The exhibit traveled around various museum locations after its initial New York City run, and it’s estimated two million visitors saw it.

The Brisbane show, titled The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire, has a similar span across generations. It’s organized differently, but it’s the same people behind it: co-curators Ultan Guilfoyle (a writer/filmmaker) and Charles M. Falco (a physicist/university professor).

This time, the show features 100 motorcycles, some of them the same or similar to the Guggenheim show, and some of them newer (some electric motorcycles, in particular). The ’94 Britten V1000 from the Guggenheim show is back, along with some other familiar faces as well. There’s a lot of new material, though, as these curators aren’t content to rest on their laurels, and went to a lot of work to make sure the show was up-to-date and fresh.

Alas, most of us are unlikely to ever make it to Brisbane, even if COVID-19 wasn’t interfering (the pandemic almost cancelled the show entirely!). However, there is some hope the show will travel around, if the pandemic permits. Does that mean a North American visit? It’d be nice, but don’t get your hopes up.

However, thanks to the Internet, we can at least get a small idea of what to expect. An Aussie motojourno visited the show, and wrote it up here. Calgarian Greg Williams put together this excellent behind-the-scenes look at how the show, as well as the original Guggenheim show, came together. And the Brisbane museum itself has a look at the show here. There’s even a review of the old Guggenheim show in the CMG archives, although (alas!) the photos have vanished during a long-ago server change.


  1. I took in The Art of the Motorcycle. My wife and i were in NYC for a tenth anniversary weekend getaway. I had sold my ’77 R100/7 a few years before and was at the kids-now/bikes later stage of life (I’ve been riding since the age of 13). That show might have been what cinched my return to motorcycling a few years later. All the bikes of my youth, the Kawasaki triples, Norton and Triumph twins, Husqvarna two strokes, etc. were there, along with the legends I’d only read about, like the Vincents, Indians, AJSs, etc. But what relit the fire was the MV Agusta F4, which was really the centrepiece of the whole show.

    I wonder how many Aussies will get their fire relit at this show.

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