The Cyclepedia Exhibition
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97209
Through September 8, 2013
Austrian collector Michael Embacher's attic might be creaking a bit in relief right now, having been recently dispossessed of about half of its contents. Embacher, who had amassed over 200 rare and unique bicycles in that very neat yet very full attic, has broken out two groups of bikes for simultaneous shows in Portland, Oregon and his home town of Vienna.
We had a chance to catch the Portland show, and highly recommend it based on both the collection and its presentation. Bikes are often defined by their components and require a close look to be fully appreciated, and at the exhibit they hang in an open gallery at eye level, saving the viewer the trouble of craning or stooping. Every geek cyclist relishes the opportunity to scan a dense rack of bikes, examining each, cataloging frames and components, paint-jobs and set-ups; the difference here is that each bike is followed by another more marvelous or curious.
Biking is an innate thrill, engendering cult-like devotion, and when design is thrown in, it is just compulsion on top of compulsion. The bicycles on display are a result of that mix, layered in novel solutions to problems small and large. In fact, the collection is defined by these tiny evolutionary branches—most dead-ends in the velo family tree—and seeing the bikes suspended in a mid-air procession, as if passing through the mind's eye, it is clear that bikes' use is such a pleasure, and their design such a challenge, that our nature can't let us leave them alone. Let's hope Embacher falls back into his old buying habits and fills up his attic while these shows are still open, thereby requiring some portion of his stable to perpetually be out on tour.
Whether you have a chance to see the show or not you should check out the app, where the idiosyncratic pleasures of the collection can be had anytime, anywhere...