World Naked Bike Ride and Portland Art Museum: An au naturel pairing

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Portland’s version of the World Naked Bike Ride is getting the endorsement of the Portland Art Museum to gather in the Park Blocks in front of the museum. Participants even get a special viewing of the museum’s show, “Cyclepedia” just before the ride.(Torsten Kjellstrand/The Oregonian/2010)

 

By Margaret Haberman, The Oregonian 
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on May 05, 2013 at 8:00 AM, updated May 05, 2013 at 9:31 AM

“It’s the perfect mash-up of counter-culture and high culture, Portland-style: The World Naked Bike Ride and the Portland Art Museum are teaming up this year.

Talk about naked ambition. Both sides see the benefit of joining forces.

For the museum, its new exhibit “Cyclepedia” is opening — a collection of 36 weird and wonderful bikes highlighting innovative design through the decades.

For the ride, the leafy Park Blocks in front of the museum provide an ideal spot to launch the lighthearted protest that typically attracts more than 4,000 free-of-clothes spirits.

It seemed au naturel to coordinate.

“It’s about embracing bodies, embracing something new, embracing something incredibly Portland,” says Meghan Sinnott, the lead wrangler of the bike ride.

“We’re delighted that a large group of enthusiastic cyclists will be gathering essentially in what is our front yard,” says museum spokeswoman Beth Heinrich.

It doesn’t get any more karmic than this:

When the museum planned to bring “Cyclepedia” to Portland — the only place in the U.S. that will host the collection — it reached out to cycling groups. It happened that the date for Portland’s annual version of the World Naked Bike Ride coincided with the first day of the bike exhibit.

Some ground rules: There’s no published route to discourage gawkers. Don’t drink and ride. This year, the ride isn’t a loop, so pack along anything you want at the end. And the guidelines are “As Bare As You Dare” – which means some riders go stitchless and others wear things to cover certain bits.

And so it is on June 8, cyclists in various stages of undress will meet at the museum. They’ll get a special deal to see “Cyclepedia” from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., when the ride begins: The price of admission to the show is $1 per item of clothing. That means no clothes — no charge.

As Sinnott says, the museum folks “get it.” As Heinrich says, “The human body is art.”

And really, the naked rider demographic fits nicely with the museum crowd, Sinnott says. Stats show that more than a third of the ride’s participants are ages 25-34, but it has more people 45-plus than those from 18 to 21, she says. It’s also close to equal parts men and women.

While it’s perhaps a little uncomfortable drawing the glare of publicity to a big crowd of naked people (ride organizers don’t advertise the route in advance hoping to discourage gawkers), the downtown locale is light-years nicer than some of the rougher areas where the ride has kicked off in the past — think broken glass and discarded needles, Sinnott says.

“We’re thrilled with the idea,” she says. “It’s a much better place. It gives respect to the riders.” At the same time, she says: “We realize it’s a spectacle, but it’s not a spectator sport.”

The change of venue shouldn’t affect all the different reasons people choose to ride: Some are protesting dependency on oil or the American car culture. Others want to bring attention to the vulnerability of cyclists. There are about as many causes as there are body types among the riders.

The museum hopes the association with the bike ride will expose “Cyclepedia” to a wider crowd.

“We were very conscious that this would bring a lot of attention,” says Heinrich. “Our hope is that people will pay attention to the exhibit.”

It’s all in keeping with the museum’s rather hipster streak these days. After all, the TV show “Portlandia” shot a funny sketch about bike valets at the museum. Its shows have included “The Art of Tattoo.” At the same time “Cyclepedia” runs, museum patrons also can view “Man/Woman” — bronze sculptures of nudes by Gaston Lachaise.

“We’re trying,” Heinrich said.

“Cyclepedia” should appeal to anyone who prizes creativity, beauty and marvelous machines — the museum chose the bikes from more than 200 in Vienna-based designer Michael Embacher’s collection.

The ones showing here include a bike used by wartime paratroopers, one with a ski instead of a front wheel, a tricycle and bikes that fold, carry cargo, race and carry two people. They come from Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy, the U.S. and elsewhere. Expect Eugene-based Bike Friday to be represented.

The exhibit is the third in the museum’s design series. It follows “China Design Now” and “The Allure of the Automobile.”

Workshops and lectures accompany “Cyclepedia” throughout summer. The exhibit wouldn’t be complete without some bike tours thrown in — people can register for a handful of field trips, including one that traces Portland’s bike culture. The museum is calling them “joyrides.”

But wear clothes.

— Margaret Haberman”

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by | June 18, 2013 · 5:48 pm

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