2017-05-17 02:59:09+0000 - New York, New York, United States

The motorcycle is a perfect metaphor for the 20th century.

Chosen for their beauty and historical significance, one-hundred-and-fourteen motorcycles were on display. The catalog of all motorcycle exhibitions, was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, June 26-September 12, 1998. The exhibit was a long-overdue celebration of the sport, the machines and the pioneers who love them.

If you were lucky enough to see it, you'll never forget it. The bikes, displayed as the art that they are, in the curved rotunda of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building created a visual feast for riders and non-riders.

The Art of the Motorcycles is a 600-page exhibit art book, published by Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in partnership with BMW, is now available free to download in multiple formats from Archive.org. Here's a partial list of motorcycles in The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition. While the scanned images are not the glorious images you'll savour in the printed book, it's a terrific read.

Download the massive PDF and enjoy!. Thanks Archive.org!


Invented at the begining of the industrial age, its evolution tracks the main currents of modernity. The object and its history represent the themes of technology, engineering, innovation, design, mobility, speed, rebellion, desire, freedom, love, sex, and death. For much of society, the motorcycle remains a forbidden indulgence, an object of fascination, fantasy, and danger. Park the latest Ducati, Harley, Honda, or BMW on a street corner in any city or town in the world, and a crowd will gather.

It is hard to imagine the motorcycle twenty years from now. Like the modern age it reflects, the motorcycle would seem to have an uncertain future. They cannot be built any bigger or faster without leaving the road, and space-age design certainly must have its own limitations.

As a practical machine whose history has been one of relentless improvements and design evolution, the motorcycle as a form class at the end of the 20th century embodies its own end-game paradox. Logic and physics suggest it has reached the end of its evolutionary potential, but somehow we know that cannot be completely true. As such, however, it is a quintessential symbol of the insecurity and optimism of our time.

You must Log In to submit a comment

@marina: started to read the scanned copy, really mesmerizing. I'm planning to get a hard copy for my library. It's a book to have.


@marina: Much thanks for this! Greatly appreciate it!

  • lazyb8s
  • 2017-05-19T20:37:17-04:00

@marina,Thank you for the heads up. I have been looking and reading this all day. The history is awesome. Must have been amazing to see in person.

  • Bruce
  • 2017-05-17T11:19:00-04:00

@marina, it was the most attended exhibit in the history of the Guggenheim, much to the chagrin of New York's art elite. To this day, I regret not going. Thanks for the tip!

  • marina
  • 2017-05-16T23:06:56-04:00

@Bruce - you'll enjoy this one.