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Exhibit hails history and art of motorcycles

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Some wore Brooks Brothers, others wore leather.

Hundreds of motorcyclists roared up Park Avenue to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Thursday for a rare meeting between high culture and chrome fenders, handlebars, tailpipes and kickstands.The museum's famous circular ramp was lined with 114 motorcycles - from 19th century bicycles with engines to roaring metallic monsters, including the most famous of all: a replica of the Harley Davidson Chopper straddled by Peter Fonda in "Easy Rider."

"We thought the motorcycle was the perfect metaphor for the 20th century," Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation, told the crowd of about 1,000 gathered for a preview of the exhibit.

"It embodies so many themes of this century - technology, speed, rebellion, transformation."

The new exhibit, which runs through Sept. 20, examines the motorcycle's societal impact, its advancement as technology changed and its role as modern art.

A young Marlon Brando - in leather, of course - seated on a bike in "The Wild One," symbolizes the popular counterculture of the 1960s. A classic Triumph Twenty-One 350 along with other bikes of the time are displayed on an undulating white wooden floor - a representation of a turbulent time.

Big, flashy, fast and expensive motorcycles, such as the monstrous Yamaha Vmax built in 1989, represent the me-me-me decade, the 1980s.

For the 1990s, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger's robotic Terminator atop a monstrous motorcycle that combined retro and revolutionary elements, such as a classic motorcycle frame covered in Kevlar and carbon fiber.

The Guggenheim was founded in 1937.