• Wheels of Fire

    Wheels of Fire

    28 September 2023 — 28 January 2024

Erarta Museum of Contemporary Art presented Wheels of Fire, an exhibition showcasing more than 20 rugged and elegant, innovative and minimalist motorbikes, as well as prototypes, videos, and concept designs pushing the boundaries of imagination and celebrating the spirit of freedom

  • Custom bikes created on the point of convergence of art, sports, and business

  • Russian-made motorcycles that won multiple awards at world championships

  • Concept designs with an attitude, inspired by rock music and channelling their own philosophy

Over the past years, Erarta Museum was the first one in Russia to stage such groundbreaking shows as Lamborghini: Design Legend, Ducati Style, and Concept Cars: La Grande Bellezza telling the story of Nuccio Bertone’s acclaimed coachbuilding studio. These exhibitions celebrated the masterpieces of industrial design, the brilliant ideas that improved technical performance while sustaining aesthetic beauty, and the talent of designers, engineers, and other luminaries. Wheels of Fire is yet another take on the subject that conflates art and engineering: the exhibition visitors will have a chance to delve into the history of Kustom Kulture, view a selection of one-of-a-kind motorcycles, and see how custom bike builders are akin to jewellers who create an expensive accessory designed to accentuate its owner’s individuality and love of freedom.

The concept of a ‘custom’ emerged in the United States way back in the 1930s. By that time, mass-produced automobiles became easily affordable for most people. As sports cars still remained a luxury, many standard vehicles were being ‘stripped down’ of ‘unnecessary’ parts and upgraded through engine swaps. This trend gained much traction, turning into a nation-wide craze by the late 1940s. Countless clubs sprang up all across the States. The term ‘custom car’ was coined around that period. The first such vehicle was built by the Barris brothers George and Sam, celebrated mechanics and metalworkers.

Encompassing the building and modification (hot rodding) of cars and motorcycles, rockabilly music, related fashions, hairstyles, and tattoo art, Kustom Kulture evolved over half a century to become a full-fledged industry and global social phenomenon. Like all other aspects of the motorcycling subculture, custom bikes originated in the US in the 1950s. Whereas the word ‘bike’ implies any motorcycle, a custom bike is always a work of art. Its components, materials, accessories, and livery design are chosen by its prospective owner.

So is customising a business, an art form, or a sports discipline? There is no definite answer, and so it makes perfect sense that the creation of custom bikes has gradually developed from a garage hobby to a large-scale industry. As to the question above, having studied the great variety of exhibits on display, the viewers will be able to answer it for themselves. 


Competitive spirit is more or less inherent in any creative practice, and customising is no exception. Every year, dozens of competitions are organised worldwide, presenting new designs and engineering solutions. The official World Championship of Custom Bike Building has been held annually since 2004. That surely qualifies for a technical sports discipline. Most recently, local customising has shifted into high gear, darting forward and turning into a speck on the horizon in a matter of seconds, leaving behind only the smell of burnt rubber and hot bitumen. The enthusiasts who used to subsist on their all-encompassing obsession have gained worldwide recognition. Russian motorcycle builders won multiple awards and became many-time champions at customising competitions. On multiple occasions their bikes beat speed records. 

The Wheels of Fire exhibition is a journey into the enchanting world of a dream that came true, a celebration of excellent design and technology. This means that it is bound to be enjoyed not only by industry experts, but by anyone open to the spirit of freedom and beauty.

official media partners of the museum
current exhibitions
all exhibitions