12/05/2017 - 15:06

Sneaker lovers get their kicks at art gallery

12/05/2017 - 15:06

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More traditional art forms have taken a back seat as the latest exhibit at the Art Gallery of Western Australia explores the contemporary design and history of pop culture icon – the sneaker.

 Sneaker lovers get their kicks at art gallery
Pierre Hardy’s 2011 Poworama sneaker is part of the collection, ranging from the 1860s to the 21st century, featured in AGWA’s The Rise of Sneaker Culture Photos: Attila Csaszar

More traditional art forms have taken a back seat as the latest exhibit at the Art Gallery of Western Australia explores the contemporary design and history of pop culture icon – the sneaker.

‘The Rise of Sneaker Culture’ is the first exhibition under AGWA’s new contemporary culture program, Culture Juice, and will open to the public tomorrow, showcasing the sneaker’s social history through film, photographs, design drawings and of course, a diverse collection of over 100 sneakers.

Visitors will encounter technical innovations, sports legends, fashion trends and marketing campaigns that have shaped sneaker culture over the past 150 years, and shoe collections from the archives of global brands such as Adidas, Converse, Nike and Puma, as well as from private collectors, including hip-hop group Run-DMC.

An 1860s spiked running shoe, an original 1923 Converse All Star, a pair of 1936 track shoes, the complete presentation of Air Jordans I-XX3 and collaborations between celebrities, artists and high-end fashion houses, including Kanye West and Prada, are just some of the hundreds of sneakers on display.

The Rise of Sneaker Culture opens tomorrow and runs until September 4. 

It is the first time the international show, which originated at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto and was organised by the American Federation of the Arts, will visit Australia as a Perth exclusive.

AGWA curator of contemporary design and international art Robert Cook said the exhibition had the potential to break demographic barriers, and that part of AGWA’s programming involved targeting new audiences.  

“Sneakers are the democratic medium of the 21st century; we all wear artwork on our feet, they say something about who we are and who we aspire to be,” Mr Cook told Business News.

“I think this show will make people aware that what you do on your feet is not that different to what someone would do on a wall of a gallery.

“There’s something in this show for everybody; spikes like my dad used to wear in the 1950s, crazy things you’d only wear in your late teens … it speaks to everyone.”

The exhibition is free, a decision Mr Cook said was based on the desire for it to be open to as many people as possible.

“Sneakers are a popular medium and there’s something that’s very levelling about sneakers so obviously the entrance should reflect that,” he said.

AGWA curator of contemporary design and international art Robert Cook hopes the exhibition will attract new audiences.

In addition to the international exhibition, AGWA’s ‘Sneakerheads’ season extends to the ground floor, where the series’ first WA artist and sneaker collector, Lee Ingram, is currently loaning the gallery 170 of his current 800 pairs of sneakers collection.  

Mr Ingram will also be holding panel discussions, special talks, and, as a graphic design lecturer at Curtin University, he will run a unit on sneaker design this semester in collaboration with AGWA.

“This is a massive move on the art gallery’s part to embrace the commercial side of creativity,” Mr Ingram told Business News.

“I always thought it was something missing from WA; an appreciation of design aesthetic as well as art.

“And there’s excitement from people who have never been to an art gallery in their life – I have friends coming over from Melbourne to check out the exhibition.”

See photo gallery 

Local artist Lee Ingram has designed shoes for the likes of Asics.

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