Eight years ago, New Project collaborated with the artist and avid cyclist David Byrne on a series of 9 bike racks he designed for the New York City Department of Transportation. The temporary public art pieces were created at the time to spur more interest in biking in the city. Each powder-coated steel bike rack was sited in a location that related to its design: a dollar sign on Wall Street, a woman’s shoe in front of Bergdorf Goodman, an abstract sculptural form in front of MoMA.
8 years later, David conceived of a new set of bike racks to be installed in Menlo Park, CA near Silicon Valley in conjunction with his exhibition at PACE Gallery. Fortunately for us, he once again reached out to New Project to collaborate. We worked with the artist to execute five site-specific designs including a pointing finger, a cloud, a rocket, an infinity shape, and the @ symbol.
David came by the studio last week and we asked him a few questions about the project.
New Project: We understand you were inspired by your role as a juror for the New York City Department of Transportation’s 2008 CityRacks Design Competition to create your own bike rack designs. How did you arrive at the designs for the first round of racks that New Project fabricated?
David Byrne: Yes, the city held a competition for bike rack designs and I wasn’t submitting my designs (mine would be difficult to mass produce) but as a fun item to amuse the DOT (Dept. of Transportation) and increase awareness. I sketched out imaginary racks for specific neighborhoods. Pace (David’s gallery) saw them and suggested we actually make them….and with Scanga (Bill Scanga of Pace Gallery) we began to knock around ideas with New Project about how that could be done.
NP: What was your experience like working with New Project?
DB: This is going to sound like gushing, but it was so easy and their work is so rigorous and they’re so sensitive to the way we creative types think – perfect.
NP: How did you feel seeing your bike racks across the city?
DB: I LOVED seeing the racks out there – I felt “I’m a physical part of New York City now!”
NP: Are you inspired to make more public art? Would you like to see David Byrne bike racks in other cities, other countries?
DB: I’m very open to the idea – though as mentioned, to do mass produced racks at a reasonable cost they’d be less one of a kind than these….however these draw attention to the need for racks, even if they don’t solve the problem.
NP: How did the 2016 Silicon Valley series come about?
DB: With a collaborator, I’m doing an immersive installation in a Pace pop up gallery and they thought – hey, how about more bike racks for the Silicon Valley people out here?! Some businesses or Stanford might even buy some. So again I sketched out some ideas that are very specific to that world….
NP: In your 2010 book, Bicycle Diaries, you share your adventures from the perspective of a global urban cyclist and humanist. The advantages of seeing a city from the seat of a bicycle are obvious; how do you think we can convince more people to share your passion?
DB: I think one can’t “convince” people – and doing it because it’s good for you or for the planet isn’t going to convince folks either – but if they try it they may enjoy it…forgive me, this is terrible, but realistic, if a man sees beautiful women passing by on bikes, he may decide it might be something worth trying….if business folks begin to commute on bikes and the city makes it safe, then it lessens the stigma that only scruffy types or hipsters ride bikes.
NP: Where are you and your bike heading next?
DB: I’ve got a loaner during the install in Menlo Park and Palo Alto!
The Institute Presents: NEUROSOCIETY, an immersive theatrical experience co-created by David Byrne and Mala Gaonkar, will be on view October 27, 2017 through March 31, 2017 in Menlo Park, CA.
Team David with the bike racks before painting (left to right): Dennis, Aaron, Kelly, Molly, David, Patrick, Ethan, Fielding