Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle

Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle displays 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.

The twenty-one handbuilt bicycles exhibited sit squarely at the intersection of design, craft, and art, and include a range of contemporary designs: fixed-gear, road racing, cyclocross, mountain, and commuter bicycles, as well as the stripped-down radonneur, designed exclusively for long-distance racing. The exhibition features bicycles by: Mike Flanigan, Alternative Needs Transportation (A.N.T); Jeff Jones, Jeff Jones Custom Bicycles; Dario Pegoretti, Pegoretti Cicli; Richard Sachs, Richard Sachs Cycles; J. Peter Weigle, J. Peter Weigle Cycles; and Sacha White, Vanilla Bicycles.

Despite the seeming simplicity of their form and mechanics, bicycles offer a unique challenge to their makers. Rider and machine meet at three contact points-saddle, handlebar, and pedal. The custom builder’s chief preoccupation is 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.

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. The custom models exhibited in Bespoke are the virtuosic productions of individual makers who lavish great attention on detail. The resulting product reflects the builder’s sensibility paired with the rider’s unique needs, turning the custom bicycle into a work of art.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated color catalogue published by Lars Müller 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 of the builders.

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

Curators: Michael Maharam, Guest Curator

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