Benedict Radcliffe


Written by Kim Wilson
Photos and illustrations by Various, Ron Arad, Benedict Radcliffe
29 Monday 29th August 2011

Better known for his installations of wireframe cars and his play on well-recognised logos, UK-based artist Benedict Radcliffe has just finished his latest project: WOW Bikes. Due to be showcased at London’s W Hotel the project, a partnership with the Elton John Aids Foundation, sees Benedict work with 5 artists from the arts, fashion and music to design bicycles reflecting their personalities.

Over the years, Benedict has been involved in a plethora of projects across the globe, from the larger-than-life replica of the Air Max (below) to the Cage Soccer Stadium in France. Some projects have been his own invention, whilst others he has been commissioned to do. We met at the W Hotel to talk about his lifelong passion for machines, as well as any upcoming projects he may have tucked up his sleeve.

Air Max

The giant Air Max trainer sculpture

So Ben, what was it like to work with other creative genii on the bikes?

To be honest, the level of hands-on collaboration varied widely. Some were really active sending in their drawings and sticking to their budgets. Others less so!

How long were you been working on the project?

Each bike took roughly 2 hours to assemble. We started with the basic ESB frame by Ted James, though the female bikes have a step-through. The components, like the wire bar and Patrick Cox's leather-coated delivery box are all quite ‘fetish-y’. I have worked on more labour-intensive projects, where I have had to shape and weld the fabrics.

If you could keep one of the bicycles, which one would it be?

I think Ron Arad's bike (below) is quite cool - a clever piece of engineering. Apparently, it's rideable!

Patrick Cox & Ron Arad at the WOW Bikes Launch, with Arad's bike design

You haven't road tested them?

No, I wanted them to be perfect for the hotel. I didn't want to get the tires dirty. I wanted them to be totally fresh for the cyclists.

Obviously, you can't keep any of the bikes as they are being auctioned for the EJAF in late October! Did you ride much when you were younger?

In my late teens, 18 to 20, I did a lot of cycle racing. Then I got into fixed gear bikes.

Fixed gear?

Bikes with no brakes.

Sounds dangerous..

You have to keep cycling, you can’t glide. That is what they ride in the Olympics!

Oh! So where did the passion for making things come from? Art school?

My parents were both creative: my dad was always fixing and repairing things and my mum really liked drawing. My sisters too. I have always liked riding and shopping for parts. Some of my favourite shops include Edwards in Peckham and Bicycle Magic. Before going to Art School [Mackintosh Art School in Glasgow], I trained as a teacher – both my parents are teachers and travelled doing various jobs. I realised teaching badly-behaved inner city kids wasn’t for me and since I had spent so much time on building sites and working with my dad, I went off to art school.

When did you first work with wire framing?

When I left art school, I began to build metal structures like balconies and spiral staircases. As a result of being able to build stuff, I started working for other artists and eventually for myself. My first show was in 2005, the Modern Japanese Classic, where I approached a hotel in Scotland to see if they would host my work. In the early days, everything was self-funded, whilst I built up a portfolio.

How would you describe your portfolio?

My aim is to ensure the integrity of my work and always use the best quality material available.

Jordan Smith riding Radcliffe's creation around the W Hotel in London

Who would you like to work with next? Do you enjoy working with others?

I like other people, obviously it would not work if we didn’t click but that doesn’t usually happen. There are people I dream of working with but I think that is a dream. For instance, Peter Zumthar who created the Serpentine Gallery is a great inspiration to me. He is a master craftsman, who has worked tirelessly over the years. Christian Marclay is another artist I admire. I must make the effort to see Ron Arad at the Roundhouse.

And finally and slightly in jest, are you related to Daniel or Paula Radcliffe?

No, and people tend to think my surname is Ratcliffe! I do have a few sisters but not Paula.


The WOW Bikes will be auctioned off for Elton John’s Aids Foundation via Facebook on October 29th. Until then, W London guests can get onto the driver’s seat and ride the designer bikes on location.

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