Mixed media and conceptual artist Matt Senna, 31, produced a pair of solid-gold, 24 karat OVO Jordans for Drake. Although not wearable, the custom set is a true work of sculptural art, included in Senna’s “Higher Learning” series, which consists of 13 variations of the iconic shoe, ranging from $4,350 bronze Air Jordans to a $6,760 pair of bronze kicks. Playing off the project name, each shoe from the collection is dubbed a “study” to emphasize the importance of becoming “educated on everything we think about, make and appreciate.”
Now with more than 19 years of creative agency experience, the former high school basketball player is collaborating with major rap fixtures to produce some serious works of art, from Common’s pre-Oscars gift of gold Air Jordan 1’s to a bronze Jadakiss bust in honor of his Top 5 Dead or Alive album cover.
Billboard spoke exclusively with Senna about his artistic process, why he loves Air Jordans, and what he hopes the original Jumpman, Michael Jordan, would think of his work.
Tell us about how this collaboration came to be.
The OVO guys came to me and wanted to do something. I’ve been pretty particular about who I work with on this series, but felt adding Drake to Team Jordan was a move reminiscent of [Derek] Jeter and Randy Moss.
How did you decide on this specific style and color?
For me, gold was obvious; it’s Drake’s style and represents what he appreciates. I chose to re-create the 10s because it’s a very streamlined shoe with interesting detail. The embellishment on the bottom has a stingray on it, which I knew would create this really nice texture. I thought about the 8s, but turning that shoe into metal is risky. I’ll put it this way: Sometimes they come out amazing, and sometimes there are issues.
What’s the artistic process for turning shoes into solid-gold sculptures?
The process is very proprietary, and I haven’t been able to patent it yet, so I can’t say much. What I will say is I use different methods depending on the project and what I feel is appropriate for that piece. Some are cast, some are products of manipulation from a few different processes, some are molds we create. It all depends on the goal.
It’s funny because people are so intrigued by the process, but for me it’s more so about the message and impact of the actual piece.
Could Drake actually wear these shoes?
All of my pieces are just for display, although it’s difficult to tell just by looking at the photos. The actual weight varies depending on the materials and process used. Having people pick up the piece and feel the weight with their hands is really important to me. They can feel there’s power to it and that’s part of the story each piece tells as well.
But as an artist, the shoe is simply a subject. It’s just like doing still life, and this is my subject right now, and it won’t be forever, but it’s a subject that for me had an impact and told a story in its own way.
What would Michael Jordan think of his iconic shoe being dipped in 24k gold?
It’s a great question, but I have no idea because I don’t personally know him. I would hope he would be honored that I’m using this as a subject and I think he’d appreciate that his brand is a catalyst for digging up inspiring stories and connects with people.