Decorative Arts and Design
On View: Luce Visible Storage and Study Center, 5th Floor
The Spacelander is a marvel of postwar biomorphic design. Its curving lines and amoeba-like voids represent the mutation of the prewar streamlined style into a new expression based on organic, rather than machine-made, forms. Although the prototype—made for a 1946 exhibition of British industrial design—was a critical success, Benjamin Bowden failed in his attempts to have it manufactured. By the time it finally went into production in the United States in 1960, tastes had changed and the price of the bicycle—$89.50—was too high. It is believed that only about five hundred examples were ever sold, making it one of the rarest and most sought-after industrial designs of the mid-twentieth century. When new, this bicycle was bright red; the color has faded over time.
Fiberglass, metal, glass, rubber, fox fur
Prototype designed 1946; Manufactured 1960
44 x 77 x 32 in. (111.8 x 195.6 x 81.3 cm) (show scale)
On shaped metal tag on frame beneath handlebars: "BOW / DEN".
On metal tag behind seat: "BOMARD INDUSTRIES, INC. / KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI / U.S.PAT.NO. 2,537,325 / Canadian Pat. No. 1951 / SERIAL NO. [engraved] B009905"
Marie Bernice Bitzer Fund
Two wheeled, single-speed "Spacelander" bicycle; streamlined reddish-pink molded fiberglass shell with metal frame. Fiberglass constructed in multiple pieces: two over front wheel, two over remainder of frame with openings for handlebars, seat, pedals and rear wheel. Molded cover has pairs of front and rear cone-shaped head and tail lights. Irregular, organic-shaped openings expose front and rear wheels and area beneath the seat. Trimmed with chromed metal or stainless steel over the seams of fiberglass shell. White plastic handle grips, black and white seat and whitewall tires. (Seat and pedals probably not original.)
Benjamin G. Bowden (American, born England 1907-1998). Spacelander Bicycle, Prototype designed 1946; Manufactured 1960. Fiberglass, metal, glass, rubber, fox fur, 44 x 77 x 32 in. (111.8 x 195.6 x 81.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Marie Bernice Bitzer Fund, 2001.36. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2001.36_SL1.jpg)
overall, 2001.36_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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