The MC Collection of Classic Motorcycles, Sweden

A world-class classic motorcycle museum in Sweden

| July/August 2010

The capacity for cognitive thinking marks humans as special among all species. We’d take that a step further and say that thinking about classic motorcycles marks motorcyclists as special among humans. When Swedish motorcycle collectors Christer Christensson and Ove Johansson pondered the subject, they decided that instead of looking at classic motorcycles through the familiar lenses of speed, power and industry, perhaps design, culture and technology should be the relevant points of focus. Thus was born the MC Collection classic motorcycle museum in Sweden.

The seeds of this classic motorcycle museum began when Christer, who started collecting classic motorcycles after his brother restored a Norton 99 Dominator for him in the 1980s, visited the Guggenheim in New York in 1998 for the landmark exhibition The Art of The Motorcycle. The exhibit inspired Christer to open his own gallery, so he teamed up with Ove, a well-known restorer, collector and motorcycle historian in Sweden.

Together they founded MC Collection, assembling a modest selection of more than 100 important classic motorcycles and opening the collection to the public in 1999. For the next 10 years the collection was housed in a mansion some 100 miles north of Gothenburg, deep in the Swedish countryside, but late last year the museum moved into new, purpose-built digs just outside Stockholm, Sweden’s capital city.

Sculpture at its finest

Christer calls MC Collection a “museum of art, a museum that exhibits mechanical sculptures.” You could interpret this as meaning good motorcycle design is the outcome of artistic vision meeting technical realities. Yet the technical aspect of the motorcycle is undoubtedly very important, and it’s reasonable to argue that the quest for power and speed is the ultimate driving force behind the evolution of the motorcycle. Or at least it used to be. Today’s motorcyclists constitute an increasingly aging group, a fact that’s certainly behind the success of Harley-Davidson and its clever use of retro-tech.

Speed doesn’t seem as relevant as it used to be, and as modern rationality becomes postmodern, does that mean more room for the emphasis of art and design regarding motorcycles? Is MC Collection a sign of the times? The museum offers no easy answers to what motorcycles really are. The point is rather to pose questions and let the visitor reflect on possible answers. Or if they prefer, simply hang around and indulge in the sheer beauty of the collection. It is, after all, quite possible to appreciate beautiful motorcycles regardless of their possible status as objects of art, objects of design or simple outcomes of industrialism.

And if you love motorcycles, you will appreciate the machines assembled at MC Collection. More than 100 motorcycles are displayed on two floors. The lower floor covers the first half of the 20th century, while the second floor covers the rest, from 1950 until today. And while MC Collection presents the motorcycle as art, it also shows the history of the motorcycle over the past century through a carefully picked array of machines. The collection is a little heavy on racing bikes, and while ordinary commuter bikes aren’t completely left out, they aren’t represented in a way that reflects their real impact as commercial products, either.

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