Can an icon be art? And if it can, what makes it an icon?

Part of an icon’s power stems from its indivisibility: it cannot be separated from what it represents. The words "Air Max" will forever be associated with the Swoosh, just as the Swoosh will forever be Nike.

When Nike first released the Air Max 1 on March 26, 1987, it’s safe to say they released a revolution. Although Nike had been placing air cushioning into its shoes since 1979, it wasn’t until 1987 that it made this technology large and visible enough for people to see, creating a streetwear archetype.

And while it is a U.S.-designed sneaker, it became an icon of European streets and subcultures: from British grime to Dutch gabber. For many, it’s the original sneakerhead’s sneaker.

So to celebrate Air Max Day 2016, we took that icon and we made it into art. By referencing the style of the Dutch masters, we took our favorite Air Max models and reimagined them in the style of 17th-century oil paintings.

Nike Air Max 90 "DQM Bacon" (2004)

Created in partnership with longstanding New York retailer DQM (in those days, it was still called Dave's Quality Meat), the Nike Air Max 90 "Bacon" almost looks good enough to eat. The release was two-tiered, with one Hyperstrike version featuring a "DQM" tag on the tongue.

Nike Air Max BW "Stash" (2003)

A co-op release between the Swoosh and OG graffiti artist Stash, aka Josh Franklin, this Air Max BW was one of the first examples of Nike tapping an artist to collaborate. The run was limited to around 1,000, and each pair came boxed in limited-edition packaging.

Nike Air Max 180 "Germany SP" (2013)

A more recent addition to the Air Max dynasty, this Air Max 180 "Germany SP" featured Germany's signature camouflage pattern, as well as a seamless upper and embroidered German flags sewn onto the insoles.

Nike Air Max 1 Premium "Patta x Parra, Cherrywood" (2010)

A veritable grail for any sneakerhead, Nike enlisted Amsterdam's finest Patta and Parra for this "Cherrywood" execution of the Air Max 1. Today, the shoe commands one of the highest resell prices of any Air Max.

Nike Air Max 95 Supreme "atmos Animal" (2007)

This bold colorway courtesy of Japanese retailer atmos was a clear departure from a standard color-block design, instead incorporating a daring mix of animal prints, for a truly memorable result.

  • PhotographyMathilde Karrèr
  • Nike Air Max 90 "DQM Bacon" (2004)Tony Toupet
  • Nike Air Max BW "Stash" (2003)Kish Kash
  • Nike Air Max 180 "Germany SP" (2013)Conny Maier
  • Nike Air Max 1 Premium "Patta x Parra" (2010)David Fischer
  • Nike Air Max 95 Supreme "Atmos Animal" (2007)Christian Sachse
  • DescriptionsChris Danforth
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