Does the thought of a revving motorcycle get your motor running, pulling you to head out on the highway?
For decades, the allure of the motorcycle has spoken to generations of asphalt adventure seekers. Today's bikes are two-wheeled palaces compared with their ancestors, but through the years, the lines and designs of motorcycles have been as attractive as the call of the road.
From noon to 1 p.m. Friday, Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art Executive Director Kevin O'Brien will present "The Art of the Motorcycle," a program on the motorcycle as a cultural icon that continually changes with the times. Registration for $10 includes lunch and admission to the museum gallery. Register online at georgeohr.org or call 374-5547.
The program is part of Community Café at the Ohr, a monthly lecture series.
On Nov. 15, the Mobile Bay Vintage Motorcycle Club and the Crescent City Vintage Motorcycle Club will present the Gulf Coast Vintage Motorcycle Show on the Ohr's Museum Plaza. Registration will be 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., with awards (first three places in each class plus a best of show) presented at 3 p.m.
The show is free to spectators. About 40 to 60 bikes from the 1930s to 1960s are expected to be part of the show.
Motorcycle owners' entrance fee for the show will be $10 per bike. Categories are Vintage American over 350cc, Vintage American 350cc or less, Vintage Japanese over 305cc, Vintage Japanese 305cc or less, Vintage European 1977 or newer, Vintage European 1976 or older, vintage British, Vintage Scooter, Unrestored Original, Café Racer (any age), Competition (any age) and Custom (any age).
The talk and the show are precursors to an Ohr exhibit planned for November 2016 through May 2017, in which motorcycles from the early 1900s to about 1960 will be on display in the museum's galleries.
"My talk will take on the premise 'Why would an art museum do motorcycles?'" he said. "It looks at motorcycles as an art form. They are a thing of beauty."
He noted the Guggeinheim Museum in New York "did this years ago, and there was an uproar. The director said this is engineering and art combined," O'Brien said. "Some look at them as fine antique jewelry."
An interesting aside: "The Art of the Motorcycle," also the name of the Guggeinheim's 1998 exhibit, was shown in a display designed by Frank Gehry (the Ohr's designer) in the New York museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Early motorcycles could best be described as bicycles with gas tanks.
"When cars were first being built, any transportation was considered good," he said. "But as cars became more accessible and better, motorcycles were not looked at as a particularly good mode of transportation. They were considered more for enthusiasts."
There was little to no shock absorbency for rutted or gravel early roads.
"With bikes from the '20s and earlier, you really had to know what you were doing," O'Brien said.
O'Brien appreciates the beauty of motorcycles.
"I love British sports cars, and I always wanted to do an exhibit of them in a museum, but there's a problem," he said with a smile. "You can't fit them in the doors. So I checked out vintage motorcycles, and I fell in love with the way they look."
He's had some experience with the bikes.
"I have driven them a few times and crashed twice. I just like looking at them," he said.
There is a George Ohr connection to motorcycles.
"Ohr himself was a motorcycle guy," O'Brien said. "He rode a Thor, which would have been from the 1908 to 1914 period, so we're looking for a Thor motorcycle."