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Contemporary cultural precinct HOTA, Home of the Arts on the Gold Coast has today unveiled the Australian premiere of Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street, opening 25 November 2023. 

First unveiled by The Design Museum, London, the blockbuster summer exhibition explores one of the most universal design objects, bought and worn by millions of people worldwide every day. 

Charting the design and cultural journey of sneakers, a phenomenon that has challenged performance design, inspired new youth cultures and shaken the world of fashion, Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street presents over 400 objects, including over 200 shoes, process material, photography, posters, videos and artworks. 

An Australian exclusive, the exhibition at HOTA Gallery will also feature iconic and unique Australian collaborations alongside a program of events, exploring the sneaker phenomenon through an Australian lens. 

Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street Curator Ligaya Salazar said: “Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street reveals the role young people from diverse backgrounds have played in making individual sneakers into style icons and in driving an industry now worth billions. The exhibition also gives behind-the-scenes insight into new upcycling and sustainable design practices, unseen prototypes predicting the future of performance design, and streetwear and fashion collaborations that changed the face of the industry.”

Experience Gold Coast CEO, John Warn said: “Welcoming Sneakers Unboxed to HOTA will be a modern cultural fit for the Gold Coast. Being able to bring these exclusive exhibitions to the Gold Coast demonstrates the city’s commitment to world class cultural events and to providing the best experiences possible for the residents of and visitors to the Gold Coast.”

HOTA’s Interim CEO Mik Auckland said: “Step into HOTA Gallery this summer for Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street, the first major design exhibition to be presented since we opened in May 2021. As an active city with a vibrant street culture and enthusiasm for fashion, summer on the Gold Coast is the perfect time and place to celebrate the iconic footwear phenomenon. We are thrilled to be presenting this internationally acclaimed exhibition exclusively in Australia.”

Susi Muddiman, Director, Gallery and Visual Arts, HOTA said: We are excited to partner with London’s Design Museum to present HOTA’s first international design exhibition. Our team has worked with the Design Museum to present a HOTA version which explores the sneaker phenomenon through an Australian lens.”

The first chapter of the exhibition, STYLE, examines the influence of social movements and youth culture on sneakers. Originating in New York during the 1970s, the basketball and hip-hop communities elevated the sneaker from sportswear accessory to cultural symbol through the likes of Clyde Frazier and Run-DMC.

Following the ongoing global evolution of sneakers style, the exhibition explores iconic collaborations that shaped the industry over the years with athletes including Michael Jordan, whose Nike Air Jordan 1 OG’s were the first shoe Nike designed specifically for one athlete. The impact of high-end fashion and runway reinventions by Comme des Garçons, Sacai, A-Cold-Wall*,Craig Green andOlivia Kim are also explored alongside celebrity endorsements such as Pharell for Adidas

The second chapter, PERFORMANCE, explores the new technologies, processes and materials by designers in sport science, in a quest to make their shoes technically the best. From the iconic early Converse ‘Big 9’ and materials from basketball clinics run by Chuck Taylor in the 1950s, to the record breaking Nike ‘Alphafly NEXT%’ and self-lacing ‘Fit Intelligence’ shoe by Puma. 

The exhibition also features a number of prototypes alongside futuristic designs from the past and present. A journey through the design process behind today’s most inventive shoes, examples include a brand using blockchain certification, the world’s first biologically active shoes developed by MIT Design Lab and Biorealize for Puma.   

Looking towards a future of sustainable footwear, the exhibition shines a light on the designers working to make this industry change, from plant-based sneakers by brands including Veja and Native Shoes, and customised designs from Helen Kirkum and Alexander Taylor.

In collaboration with Sneaker Freaker, the exhibition will present rare Australian collaborations unique to HOTA. This includes the original Nike Air Presto made for the Australian Olympic team for Sydney 2000, one of the most elusive sneakers for collectors across the globe; Sneaker Freaker’s New Balance 997.5 Tassie Tiger named after the native Australian marsupial; and Melbourne Rules, a collaboration with BespokeIND to celebrate the iconic 2016 AFL Grand Final between the Sydney Swans and the Western Bulldogs. 

An accompanying program of panel discussions and events will run across the opening week. Highlights include: Women in Sneakerswith leading experts Ligaya Salazar (curator, Sneakers Unboxed), Audrey Bugeja (Managing Editor, Sneaker Freaker), Sarah Huston (founder, Yeah Girl) and Dr Indigo Willing (co-founder, We Skate QLD) discuss the sneaker and adjacent industries locally and abroad (25 Nov); and a Q&A with Claudio Kirac and Jamal Diallo, the founder of Sneakerland, the biggest sneaker convention in Australia (26 Nov). 


Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street

From 25 November 2023 
HOTA Gallery, 135 Bundall Rd, Surfers Paradise Gold Coast
Open 10am-4pm daily
Tickets starting from $10