Forget galleries and museums. Footwear is the new frontier for exhibiting work. AFC brings you the greatest and latest list of this burgeoning trend in wearable art: the art sneaker!
Keds x Jenny Holzer for the Whitney
In most recent art sneaker news, the Whitney and conceptual artist Jenny Holzer have collaborated with Keds to support the museum’s summer season, including the Whitney Live series of musical performances every Friday. Holzer, most famous for publishing texts, or truisms, on different media, reuses one of her vintage isms from her 1980 “Survival” series for these limited edition sneakers. “Protect me from what I want,” which has appeared on everything from condoms to LED signs, in this case evokes the question: do the sneakers protect me from wanting more sneakers? Not if the Whitney has a say. The museum also gave shoppers the chance to create their own artsy Keds with a touchscreen customizer in the Bloomingdale’s windows (a nifty piece of technology that luckily means you never have to enter the department store). Unfortunately, there’s no chance here to write “sweatshop” across your sneaker like Jonah Peretti tried to do for Nike’s personalized shoes, prompting a back and forth email battle between Peretti and Nike. While visitors could design every inch of their shoe, right down to the lace holes, the Whitney played it safe with design choices of only block colors or graphic patterns. Bloomingdale’s visitors could also ogle three MFA students selected to create works in the windows for the third installment of this sponsorship bonanza: “Works on Canvas.” Artists Erica Greenwald, Jee Young Choi, and Natalia Yovane were chosen after competing against other students to paint behind glass. In order to win, their work needed to show “relevance to the Keds and Bloomingdale’s brands” and “American spirit,” according to ARTINFO’s posting. These requirements, plus the caged artist in a window set up, produce even more degrading conditions than the bismal Work of Art Challenges. The windows closed on July 21st, but the Whitney Live performances continue throughout August in the museum’s Gallery and Sculpture Court.
Tommy Hilfiger x Keith Haring
What hasn’t Keith Haring’s art been featured on? Its probably possible to wear and use only Haring merchandise, especially now that a sneaker has been added to the list. I’m mostly surprised this hasn’t happened sooner–Tommy Hilfiger’s line of Haring footwear, which includes sneakers and rainboots for men, women, and kids, is currently available at colette in Paris, but doesn’t officially launch until September and only in Europe. The collaboration brings together both the Keith Haring Foundation and Hilfiger’s organization to empower America’s youth, the Tommy Hilfiger Corporate Foundation. Haring’s colorful dancing figures are well suited for shoe design, and you’ll have no trouble figuring out what to wear them with. Pair them with the Haring T-shirts, pins, water bottles, cuff links, condoms, or even baby bibs!
Reebok x Jean-Michel Basquiat and Reebok x Rolland Berry
Reebox may have an obsession with art sneakers. They’ve turned out several editions of kicks inspired by artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Rolland Berry, plus a Rolland Berry x Basquiat mash-up–the super art sneaker to rule them all. Styles in honor of NYC graffiti artist and neo-expressionist, Basquiat, include the Reebok Ex-O-Fit Basquiat, the Reebok NPC Clean Basquiat, the Reebok Top Basquiat, and this season’s collection that features sneakers and t-shirts inspired by the artist’s work form 1981. The series is a nice homage to the late artist, especially the newest version that’s a simple white sneaker with black stitched text and Basquiat’s signature crown on the tongue. The Rolland Berry styles are louder and mix Berry’s abstract graphics and cartoon-like figures.
Clarks x FUTURA
Not surprisingly, graffiti artists are a popular pick for sneaker designs since they usually make for bright, colorful shoes. But what happens when you turn that color doody brown and slap it on a weirdly shaped boot? Nothing pretty. Clark’s remake of their classic Wallabee shoe with design by the cult graffiti artist FUTURA does just this, taking the award for ugliest art sneaker. Clarks took a hint and tried to make their new edition of Wallabees x FUTURA more vibrant with “painterly spots and splotches in a plethora of colors.” These, too, no one will wear.
HUF x Barry Mcgee
Just like the art world, the art sneaker world has its share of controversy. West Coast artist Barry Mcgee rubbed people the wrong way when he teamed up with adidas and San Francisco-based store, HUF, to create a sneaker for the adidas adicolor yellow line. Mcgee’s use of his slant-eyed, pig nose caricature, dubbed Ray Fong, on the shoe’s tongue was seen as racist and spurred mass emails calling for boycotts of adidas products. Considering Mcgee is half Chinese and the caricature is based on a photo of himself at age eight, the racists accusations are a little far fetched. That doesn’t mean you should wear the shoe. The inside has a lot more going on then the outside, which is also that unfortunate doody brown. The insert sports the illustration of Ray Fong. Too bad only the sole of your foot will be seeing it.
Puma x Kehinde Wiley for the World Cup
The World Cup frenzy ended weeks ago, but sponsor news never grows old. Two years before the vuvuzela and World Cup psychic octopus craze, Puma commissioned Kehinde Wiley to create life-size paintings of African football stars like Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, John Mensah of Ghana, and Emmanuel Eboue of Ivory Coast. For this year’s Cup, Wiley designed the “African Lifestyle” line of sneakers and apparel for Puma. The artwork and design collection traveled the world in 2010, landing in exhibits everywhere from New York to China, and finally in Johannesburg in time for the game kickoff. These sneakers are some of the nicest out of the lot, plus who wasn’t secretly rooting for the African teams all along? Even though the bloodbath is over, you can still wear your support!
Puma x Roy Lichtenstein
Puma’s collaboration with American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein has also turned out some fresh low-tops and high-tops. More understated that what you’d expect from a Lichtenstein art shoe, these sneakers make use of the artist’s signature Benday dots and thick lines for Puma’s Popart collection of 917’s. The yellow ones are a favorite, although the cartoon illusion probably holds up more in the photo than in the IRL version.
Converse Chuck Taylor x Terence Koh
Its the moment you knew was coming—a Converse art sneaker with philanthropy mixed in. Terence Koh is one of a hundred artists asked to design Converse for 1HUND(RED), Chuck Taylor’s collaboration with the AIDS fundrasing organization, (RED). Koh focused on subtraction for his design, noting in the press release that “I wanted to keep the DNA of the Chuck Taylor intact, while reducing the seams, and smoothing out the shoe’s surface as much as possible.” The result? A blank canvas that’s just asking to be doodled on. But change is the point. Also from the press release: “A percentage of the net wholesale of this shoe will go to help fight AIDS in Africa, giving consumers an opportunity to become agents of change and offering a way to turn design into power.” Its not the most thrilling (or arty, for that matter) of art sneakers, but we’re on board for the good cause.