Anyone who’s ever learned to ride a bicycle has some sort of attachment to the experience, whether it led to a lifetime of biking or was set aside like other youthful fads.
“Bike Rides: The Exhibition,” which runs through January 3 at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, with the ambitious goal of not only showing the bicycle as a contemporary art form, but also illustrating its cultural relevance around the world.
According to Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, the idea came from her co-curator, Richard Klein. “He had been seeing a lot of artists that were using bicycle components for sculptures,” she says.
Once the pair came to terms with the magnitude of the project, they determined that it could not be contained in the small gallery space initially set aside for “Bike Rides.” But before they could settle on anything else, they knew they needed to bring in an expert, one who was both a cycling enthusiast and was also tapped into the art world. They found their man in musician David Byrne.
“We wanted him to curate, but he was on tour,” says Ramírez–Montagut. “He advised to do the show not only with artists, but also with bicycle advocacy teams, and to also open up to people who are not art professionals. Aficionados that restore and ornament bikes. Their hobby is a projection of their identity.”
And so, Ramírez-Montagut and Klein began searching around the world, not only to view bicycles as pieces of art, but to show how they’re utilized in different societies.
“With our research we found that everyone talks about their bike like it’s the best bike in the world. It’s very different for different people, and in different cultures,” Ramírez-Montagut says. “In developing cultures like China, Brazil, and India, bicycles are really the transportation vehicle used by a broad part of the population. And there are street vendors using bicycles as mobile stores.”
The exhibit focuses largely on design and cultural relevance, though it also includes celebrity contributions from Byrne and others. Competitive cycling’s most recognizable face, Lance Armstrong, even loaned a pair of bikes to the museum for use in the show. (And, in case you were wondering, the image on this month’s cover is an unaltered video still of stunt rider Danny MacAskill riding atop a wrought-iron fence. Watch video of MacAskill’s insane antics at www.dannymacaskill.co.uk.)
“Bike Rides: The Exhibition” will be on display through January 3 at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut. (203) 438-4519; www.aldrichart.org.