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Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle

Curated by Michael Maharam with Sacha White, Exhibition Brings Masterworks of Contemporary Design and Craftsmanship to MADProjects Gallery

New York, NY (February 16, 2010)

Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle, presented by the Museum of Arts and Design from May 11 through mid-August 2010, will display the designs of six internationally renowned bicycle builders whose work in metal, as well as graphics and artifacts, elucidate this refined, intricate and deeply individual craft. Organized by Michael Maharam, owner of the eponymous textile company and an avid bicycle collector, along with master builder Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles in Portland, Oregon, this survey is presented as part of the MADProjects exhibition series, which explores emerging trends and innovations in the design world.

Showcasing 21 hand-built bicycles that sit squarely at the intersection of design, craft, and art, Bespoke will introduce viewers to a range of contemporary designs, including fixed-gear, road racing, cyclocross, mountain, and commuter bicycles, as well as the stripped-down radonneur, designed exclusively for long-distance racing, and even a child’s tricycle. The exhibition will feature bicycles by:

• Mike Flanigan, Alternative Needs Transportation (A.N.T.), Holliston, MA.
• Jeff Jones, Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles, Medford, OR
• Dario Pegoretti, Pegoretti Cicli, Calonazzo, Italy
• Richard Sachs, Richard Sachs Cycles, Warwick, MA
• J. Peter Weigle, J. Peter Weigle Cycles, Lyme, CT
• Sacha White, Vanilla Bicycles, Portland, OR

“Bicycles like these are at once superb examples of contemporary design, masterpieces of time-honored artisanship, and works of art,” states Holly Hotchner, the Nanette L. Laitman Director of the Museum of Arts and Design. “In presenting Bespoke in our MADProjects Gallery, we hope to provide our visitors an opportunity to appreciate bicycles on all of these levels, from the overall design to the exquisite details of each object.”

The craft of custom bicycle building involves master metalwork: bending, welding, carving and wrapping steel, titanium, aluminum and carbon. A graphic artist’s eye is required in the application of paint and decorative flourishes. Whereas several varieties of artisan may be involved in manufacturing a factory-made bicycle, the custom models exhibited in Bespoke are the virtuosic productions of individuals.

Despite the seeming simplicity of their forms and mechanics, bicycles offer a unique challenge to their makers. Rider and machine meet at three contact points—saddle, handlebar, and pedal. This extraordinary degree of integration, compared with that involved in almost any other type of sporting equipment, from soccer balls to sailboats, leaves greater risk of poor performance and discomfort if the connection between body and bicycle isn’t seamless. The custom builder’s chief preoccupation is therefore with fit; simply taking a rider’s measurements may require more than two hours for a single commission. Every bicycle is a highly refined piece of engineering.

The attention lavished on detail, which reflects the builder’s sensibility paired with the rider’s unique needs, turns custom bicycles into indisputable works of art. This is no less true of bicycles intended for such rugged applications as scaling mountains or crossing off-road terrain as it is of the streamlined models designed for road racing.

Exhibition design by Solveig Fernlund, Fernlund + Logan Architects
Exhibition graphics by 2X4
Video production by The Digital Project

Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle will be accompanied by a fully illustrated color catalogue published by Lars Muller Publishers that includes a foreword by the Museum of Arts and Design’s director Holly Hotchner; an introduction by the design writer and critic Julie Lasky; a dialogue between the exhibition’s curators Michael Maharam and Sacha White; multiple images of work by the builders in the exhibition; images of related artifacts; and biographies.

The MADProjects Gallery, located on the 2nd floor, showcases emerging trends in contemporary design through a program of short-term exhibitions. Responding nimbly to new developments in design, the Museum invites guest curators to explore current themes, issues, and innovations in the field. Exhibitions introduce the work of young, up-and-coming designers as well as design pioneers, and explore advances in sustainable design.

MADProjects was launched in February 2009 with the exhibition Totally Rad, a focused survey on the newest radiator designs, curated by Karim Rashid, which was followed in October 2009 with Ghost Stories, New Designs from Nendo, an installation of new works and prototypes by the Japanese design studio Nendo.

The Museum of Arts and Design explores how craftsmanship, art, and design intersect in the visual arts today. The Museum focuses on contemporary creativity and the ways in which artists and designers from around the world transform materials through processes ranging from the handmade to cutting edge technologies.

The Museum’s exhibition program explores and illuminates issues and ideas, highlights creativity and craftsmanship, and celebrates the limitless potential of materials and techniques when used by creative and innovative artists. MAD’s permanent collection is global in scope and focuses on art, craft, and design from 1950 to the present day.

At the center of the Museum’s mission is education. The Museum’s dynamic new facility features classrooms and studios for master classes, seminars, and workshops for students, families and adults. Three open artist studios engage visitors in the creative processes of artists at work and enhance the exhibition programs. Lectures, films, performances and symposia related to the Museum’s collection and topical subjects affecting the world of contemporary art, craft and design are held in a renovated 144-seat auditorium.

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