Nike and Foot Locker invited the finalists from their recent Air Max 90 Comp to showcase their art at an exclusive galley event! Artists Leon Withrow, George Hedon, Mat Hede, Jonathan Redmayne, Daniel Tann, Joshua Swain, James Plowman, Lee Ingram, Justin Daly and Ben Plummer traded AM90 war stories against a backdrop of anticipation that was so thick you could have cut it with a chainsaw.
Nike's Campbell Davies played emcee for the night, announcing that James Plowman was the grand winner, thanks to an online vote through Foot Locker's website. Plowman's stenciled take on the prototypical Nike sneaker beat out a quality field of entrants and he will now have his artwork displayed in Foot Locker stores throughout Australia and New Zealand. We spoke to him as well as Nike's Campbell Davies, about the competition and gallery showing.
To view all ten finalists artworks, click here.
- NIKE x FOOT LOCKER AIR MAX 90 COMPETITION WINNER.
Congrats on winning, did you ever think your work would be chosen as the champion by online voters?
JP: No, I never thought I'd win. I'm stoked just to be here and the exposure alone is flattering. Being a finalist was more than enough, winning is just the icing on the cake. It's a huge deal to have my work noticed, the opportunity that both Nike and Foot Locker have afforded me is fantastic and not only because this is my first time in Melbourne but because this city is well respected as an art hub. Plus, I've been given a chance to meet and speak with other lovers of art and the Air Max 90.
Take me through your entry?
JP: I've been creating stencil artworks for a few years now and have been commissioned to do a couple of pieces but what's funny is I had given thought to completing a piece similar to the one I entered prior to hearing about the competition, so when my friend called me and told me about it all, I quickly researched the comp and I realised it was a perfect fit. As for my process, I like to take a photo of the item, create the stencil of it, separate the colours, determine how many colours I'll be using and from there I'll undergo the tedious task of cutting out all the stencils. My AM90 piece took roughly 40 hours of just hand cut stencils, so as you can imagine, it's quite frustrating to just sit there and spend so long on one step of the process. Of course it all pays off when you see the piece coming together. Once I see the final image, my face always lights up, it's a good feeling.
Did you kill yourself with caffeine trying to complete the artwork by the deadline?
JP: The difficulty for me was trying to juggle my University workload and my piece for the competition. It all came together in the end though but I did have to squeeze it in between other things. In the end I guess it all worked out.
Did you wear a pair of AM90s while completing the piece? You know for inspiration...
JP: I'm a shoe collector so I try to not taint them while I'm painting, I wouldn't want to ruin my best kicks. I'm a collector, even to the point where I couldn't bring myself to wear my fresh new AM90s on the plane, I had them boxed on the flight over and then I had to run back to the hotel, prior to the exhibition, and change into them for the show.
The Air Max 90 is Melbourne's shoe and here you are stealing the limelight and showing the local collectors how they should be representing their own shoe... is the shoe a regular fixture in Wellington?
JP: New Zealand has a great and supportive sneaker fan-base. You see kicks like the AM90 around all the time and you can usually identify people by the shoes on their feet. The shoe stand outs, so whenever you're on the street and you see a pair, you can tell right away that that person is into their kicks as well. The AM90 is such a benchmark that you find people all over NZ wearing them because they all know that it's a special sneaker.
- NIKE PACIFIC RETAIL BRAND PRESENTATION MANAGER.
Firstly, share with us the origins of this competition, how it all came together and Nike's expectations, if any...
Campell Davies: It was born from the relationship that Nike enjoys with Foot Locker and the strength of the Air Max footwear franchise. Nike and Foot Locker are always interested in taking our campaigns that extra step and we really wanted to engage our consumers because we know that they have a passion for our sportswear icons. We've also come to understand the large and diverse influence sneaker culture is now having on the art world, especially graf and street art. On the back of our brands' successful European based Air Max campaign, where consumers were invited to mash-up videos, we thought it would be fantastic to bring Australian and New Zealand AM90 fans together. We set out to use that notion of reinterpretation in the vain of "Be The Evolution Of You", a slogan that is used by Nike. We left the medium open to the participants, in the hope that we'd receive a spectrum of artwork. The extension of the competition itself was to create a way to then present the art to the public and what better way to do that than at an art gallery.
Were you surprised by the quality and quantity of the entries for this competition?
CD: The quantity was astounding, and we've been blown away by the quality. The effort and lengths that the artists have gone to in order to produce these original works was incredible. The top 30 entrants, out of the 100 or so we received, were all of the highest quality. We ended up narrowing it down to a field of about 16, which wasn't easy and which led to plenty of heated debates. Like all these things, it was a real shame that a few pieces didn't end up being selected but we're happy with the pieces chosen, and feel they reflect the many ways consumers love the AM90.
The variety of work on display demonstrates how many ways the AM90 can be loved. What does this diversity say about the artists who have produced these works?
CD: It says to Nike that we know just how many ways a sneaker can be worn, which ultimately comes down to individual interpretation and personal style, much like art, everyone brings their own flair to the table and everyone has a different level of personal investment. We've been very fortunate that such a large mixture of styles were submitted for the competition, everything from Jonathan Redmayne's 3-D take on paint dripping down over an Air Max 90 to George Hedon's work involving pirates and actual deconstruction of Nike's iconic shoe. There was no way we could have anticipated or imagined the breadth of interpretation and the time that has gone into each piece. The quality says so much about the love so many people have for their AM90 sneakers.
Is this exhibition is a true signifier that the shoe is owned by a culture and reflective of an affinity that a culture has with the AM90 model?
CD: The interesting thing to me is that a competition like this, and the passion shown by the artists, indicates that certain people would rather purchase sneakers than groceries, or they'd rather buy shoes than put petrol in their cars. It's little glimpses like that, these little looks into people's love affairs with Nike's products that we have a chance to experience once we call for entries to a competition like this one. As is the case with most of our icons like the Air Force 1, Cortez and Dunk, we don't decide that these styles need to be held up and revered, it's the consumers who adore them and the enthusiasts who help them become sneaker icons. That's what's great about a competition like this one with Nike and Foot Locker, we can give budding artists the chance to be seen and who knows, a few of them may just end up receiving more work, as a result.
Would an exhibition like this be possible without the internet?
CD: Without the net it would be quite difficult, especially when you consider we have had finalists enter the competition as far as away as Wellington and Perth. That's five and a half thousand kilometers worth of people who love the AM90! We're very fortunate to be able to have a trans-Tasman competition that incorporates people regardless of the city they're in. Without the net we would have had to keep it quite city-centric, which wouldn't be a true reflection of the AM90 fanbase. This competition also gives us the opportunity to showcase quality artworks and share the winners with those who not only voted but those who thought about entering and maybe didn't for one reason or another. Thanks to the internet we can extend the high standards of this exhibition to all our friends through Facebook as well as share the highlights with the world and show them what Australian and New Zealand sneaker heads can do.
Given the success of this AM90 showing, will we see another?
CD: Whenever there's an opportunity for a signpost like the 20th anniversary we'll be looking to bring those that love our products together in any way we can. You may see us run a similar but larger scale version when the silver anniversary rolls around in five years. Who knows!