Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Jeffrey has a new neighbor on 14th Street.
In a move that reflects the blurring lines between art and commercialization, Nike has set up an art exhibit featuring its new Air Presto sneakers at a gallery in the increasingly trendy Meatpacking district.
As a teaser for next month’s Air Presto launch, Nike is displaying the sneakers on a wall at the Katzen-Stein gallery, just a few doors down from Jeffrey. Aimed at urban trendsetters — especially young ones — the Air Presto is a unisex stretch mesh product that is offered in 17 colors and sizes — extra-extra small through extra large.
“We wanted to push the product toward art. Art is pushing the other way — toward function,” said Stanley Hainsworth who, along with Derek Welch, set it up. “We wanted to celebrate the form and colors.”
Both installation artists are Nike design directors who focus on image, graphics and brand identity. They wanted to present Air Presto in a different light, Hainsworth said, since the product aims to redefine sneakers.
The nontraditional sizing was created somewhat accidentally, after a few Nike executives with different shoe sizes tried on samples and realized they could wear the same ones, Hainsworth added.
Donald Albrecht, adjunct curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, noted that more graphic designers, architects and photographers are doing art installations. The fact that people are more visually aware should further that trend, he said.
“As the world gets more complicated, we’ll get more complicated ideas,” Albrecht said. “It’s the very complex hybrid we live in. You see it in fashion as well. Donna Karan has a store with objects for sale.”
Even though the Presto installation was not finished until Tuesday and the show officially opens with a party tonight, about 50 people have already stopped by the Katzen-Stein to see if they can try or buy the Air Prestos, Hainsworth said. Not by coincidence, the display will be dismantled May 27 and the Air Presto will be shipped to stores the following day.
To highlight its newfound artistic inclinations, Nike has displayed colorful solid posters imprinted with “XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL” and “PRESTO” as well as the gallery’s address and show dates. As with any decent gallery, there will be cards for attendees that list 10 store locations.
“There’s no swoosh, no Nike identity. We wanted to make it free from that. When the corporate advertising kicks in, that will take care of that,” Hainsworth said. “The goal was: If anyone over the age of 18 sees it, we missed.”