Motorcycle Sells for One Million
By Stephen Milioti
Japanese artists are renowned for their Zen-like patience, but spending 7,500 hours hand-crafting a motorcycle would seem to push that to absurd lengths - until you see the motorcycle. Then you wonder how Chicara Nagata managed to build something so stunning in so little time.
Nagata's award-winning motorcycles are breathtaking works of art, so it is fitting that three of them are featured in an exhibit at New York's Ippodo Gallery and the Contemporary Asian Art Fair. The bikes are as meticulously crafted as they are stunningly detailed, blending vintage parts with modern design to create motorcycles that are simultaneously retro and futuristic.
Nagata's art pays tribute to the very machines that almost killed him, and to the people who saved him. "There are many ways a man can express himself, but there are not many things I can do," he writes in the notes accompanying his exhibit. "I have found something on which I will pour my life."
Nagata, 46, was 16 when a motorcycle accident nearly killed him. He endured eight months of intensive therapy and several blood transfusions during his recovery, all the while wondering why he should survive so horrible an accident when so many others haven't. Nagata, whose name means "power," decided to honor those who had died, and those who saved him, by creating art. He became a graphic designer in 1982 and launched his own studio a decade later.
His love affair with motorcycles was rekindled in 1993 when he started building his first custom. It took him seven years. Whereas most motorcycle "builders" do little more than open the Fat Book parts catalog and start ordering parts they simply bolt together in a week or two, Nagata hand-crafts everything but the drivetrains. The frames, the suspension components, even the throttle assemblies and hand controls are designed and made by Nagata.
He's built 13 bikes so far. Nagata won the grand prize in the 2006 AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building for Chicara Art I, a sleek retro-ride powered by a 1939 Harley-Davidson U motor. He took second place last year with Chicara Art II, which features a 1942 Harley WLA motor.
The three bikes featured at Ippodo can be had for $1 million apiece which, given the level of workmanship, strikes us as a bargain.
Photos courtesy Ippodo Gallery. Be sure to check out Nagata's work on his Web site.