Thursday, March 24, 2011

Museum of Design Atlanta: Italian Motorcycles!

MV Agusta 500cc Grand Prix
MV Agusta 500cc Grand Prix
I have never seen so many Ducatis in one place! The Passione Italiana: Design of the Italian Motorcycle exhibition at the new location of the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) is a motorcycle and design enthusiasts dream come true.

I had been looking forward to this day for several months, since I first discovered MODA at its previous location downtown. My first visit was immediately prior to the temporary closing and I was totally blown away by the Kristofer Laméy exhibit, Serving Form, as well as the courtesy of the museum staff.

That caliber of exhibition and the same staff courtesy has transferred to the new space, which is mind-blowing amazing.

I had the great fortune to attend one of the construction-phase visits to the new space. I was impressed with the museum even when it was drywall, hanging cables, and unpainted. The transformation, the finished space, embodies the word "design." To those who made it happen…"Kudos and congratulations!"

Museum of Design Atlanta
Museum of Design Atlanta
I arrived on opening day, Sunday, March 20, 2011, very excited to see the Italian motorcycles. Had there been nothing else, I would have been ecstatic just to see the Ducatis and the Agustas. But there was more.

On opening day, if visitors were not sure of the address, they knew they’d reached their destination when they saw the multitude of large, white balloon bouquets (can we say "Up"?), the motorcycles parked out front, the food vendors on the side street, and the MODA logo prominently displayed (Yeah for marketing!).

Welcoming guests were the Executive Director, Brenda Galina, Ph.D. and Associate Director, Laura Flusche. It may seem "mandatory" for museum directors to be present at an opening, but I'd previously met Brenda and Laura both, on more than one occasion, and it was heart touching to see their excitement of the plans for the new location come to fruition.

MV Agusta Brutale Oro
MV Agusta Brutale Oro
Brenda and Laura have given more and sacrificed more than most visitors will ever know to ensure the survival and success of the Museum of Design Atlanta. If you have the honor of meeting either or both of them when you visit, please thank them for all they've done to give Atlanta a world-class museum of design.

The exhibit space is itself brilliantly designed. Located in the public library building at 1315 Peachtree Street in the Midtown Arts District (another brilliant move on the director's part!) exactly across the street from the High Museum of Art, MODA is nestled between other office entrances on the first floor.

Upon entering the museum, visitors pass through an enclosed entryway into the main reception area. There’s a front display window, where for this exhibit there are two Ducati motorcycles enticing passersby into the museum. There’s also the welcome station where visitors may obtain information about the museum and current and upcoming exhibits, as well as purchase tickets and memberships.

At the welcome desk, I and my friend were greeted by Jeffrey Adler, the museum’s Office Manager and a friend. Jeffrey is also an artist as are many of the people I’ve met who are associated with MODA. Within seconds we were on our way into the exhibit.

Behind the welcome desk is a full wall bearing the MODA logo (you know without a doubt where you are) in its signature red color.

There are several galleries throughout the space, each numbered. You’ll also see "ribbons" throughout the museum, another brilliant design element, in the form of horizontal, shoulder height bands of red with gallery and exhibit information embedded within.

Interactive Station
Interactive Station
There are also interactive touch-screen displays throughout the museum that provide information about the museum and current and upcoming exhibits. They've really gone high-tech. I first learned about QR Codes at their former location…I'm anxious to see what they introduce next.

Also in the new space are multiple video projection units, all of which were in use during opening day of Passione Italiana.

The gallery at the far end of the museum has an abundant amount of natural light as well as observation windows from the public library upstairs. You might think you just went to the library to check out a book then you learn you get a sneak peak of the current exhibition downstairs…a nice perk for our learned friends.

Just so you know, tours of the Museum of Design Atlanta are self-guided. I recommend allotting approximately one hour, probably more, to view Passione Italiana.

The Exhibit

Bimota V-Due
Bimota V-Due
One of the great cool-factors of visiting MODA on opening day was the number of motorcycle riders (you could tell by their attire) who were there to see Passione Italiana: Design of the Italian Motorcycle, an exhibit made possible by the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, of Birmingham, Alabama.

I shouldn't have been surprised because I had heard about the Moto for MODA event…a motorcycle route through Midtown (a great way to remind locals of the exhibit) that included complimentary parking, helmet check, and half-off admission, capped with a host-bar viewing of the Moto GP race in Qatar.

Now, to the motorcycles! This is what the new location inaugural exhibit is all about…Italian motorcycles, or more specifically, the design of Italian motorcycles.

Ducati 1098 S Tricoloree
Ducati 1098 S Tricoloree
The exhibit includes nine Italian motorcycles that span five decades, including four Ducatis, three Agustas, one Bimota, and one Morini, not including the two Ducatis in the front display window.

As I write this, it's been several days since seeing the motorcycles and I've given much thought as to which I would consider my favorite. Even now, if I were given nine sets of keys and told I could only keep one set, I would be hard pressed to choose.

Ducati Supermono
Ducati Supermono
But if I had to choose or lose, I would ride away on the Ducati Supermono. That bike was built for racing and there were reportedly only 30 ever made…so, you get to see not only Italian motorcycles, you get to see rare Italian motorcycles!

There are several bikes in the exhibition that are older than I am…and they're stunning (motorcycles don't get crows feet). The one that I'm sure will be a crowd favorite (judging by the number of comments it received when I posted its photo to my Facebook account) is the 1964 MV Agusta 500cc Grand Prix.

As a museum of design there are clever details everywhere. You'll not be surprised when it dawns on you that all of the motorcycles in the exhibit are primarily red in color…appropriate given MODA's signature red.

Motorcycle Race Suits
Motorcycle Race Suits
This exhibit has more than motorcycles.

One of the very cool features is a collection of driver suits. One of the suits, worn by Casey Stoner of Australia in 2010, is scuffed the length of the left side. Casey finished fourth in the Championship that year, so the scuffing was evidently not too detrimental, but it shows the danger and required skill for sport racing.

Also in the main hallway, there's a photo exhibit that chronicles the 50 year span of the motorycylces on exhibit showcasing Italian fashion, industry, furniture, and motorcycle design, featuring other Italian designers including Versace.

50 Years of Italian Design
50 Years of Italian Design
The only thing that could make this exhibit better would be if they would loan me the Ducati Supermono, just for the day even. Given that is unlikely to happen (especially since one sold last year for US$92,000 and the fact that I'm not an experienced rider), I am perfectly content to occasionally visit the Supermono and its entourage at MODA and will do so frequently through Monday, June 13, 2011 when the exhibit closes.

The Return

Am I motivated to return to MODA? On my first visit, at their former downtown location, I purchased a membership…I was that impressed with this museum, so, yes, I will definitely be back. There are a number of upcoming exhibits that have piqued my curiosity, so I imagine I'll return rather frequently.

Touring the Museum of Design Atlanta

Date toured: Sunday, March 20, 2011
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Thursdays open until 8:00 p.m.); Sundays 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: 1315 Peachtree Street (directions and map)
Cost: $10 adults; $8 seniors and military; $5 students and children
Parking: Street parking and nearby parking garages

"Passione Italiana"


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