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On Sound Walks
Courtesy of On

Sportswear brand On celebrates the link between movement and creativity

At Art Basel 2022, On staged tours of the historic city’s greatest artworks, and continues to get people moving with its virtual Sound Walks

Last month, Basel’s sweltering Messeplatz was filled with sweaty artists, collectors, gallerists, and other attendees of the city’s annual art fair, back on schedule after two years of pandemic-related disruption. Amid the heat, a particularly refreshing pitstop was provided by the running shoe and sportswear label On, which misted passersby with cool water from its installation (dubbed the “On Structure”) outside the exhibition centre.

Founded in 2010 by former Swiss Ironman champion Olivier Bernhard, alongside his friends David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti, On burst onto the sportswear scene with one goal: to revolutionise the sensation of running. Using unique cushioning technology – modelled on Bernhard’s experiments with garden hose – it created running shoes with a soft landing and a springy release. According to a study by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, this tech has helped athletes run at significantly lower pulse rates and blood lactate levels over the years.

In 2020, however, On partnered with Art Basel for the first time, marking the next step in its development from an exclusive sports brand to a clothes label with a broader reach, crossing lifestyle, culture, and various forms of creativity (see also: its collaborations with the likes of Loewe). The partnership saw On run a tour of the art fair’s Parcours sector, which locates artworks – selected by the Swiss curator Samuel Leuenberger – around Basel’s historic Old Town. Guided by the renowned curator Gianni Jetzer, these tours returned this year, allowing visitors to explore site-specific installations while taking On’s Cloudaway hybrid sneakers for a test walk.

At Art Basel 2022, the Parcours offerings led Jetzer’s tour everywhere from an underground car park (the site of Simon Starling’s incisive A-A’ B-B’), to the banks of the Rhine, where Maria Loboda’s The Year of Living Dangerously (2022) staged a series of fine art replicas, as if they’d washed ashore with plastic waste and driftwood. Ecological consciousness was a recurring theme, which is appropriate, given On’s commitment to sustainability. In an effort to combat climate change, the label currently uses recycled rubber and plastics while developing new, increasingly sustainable materials, such as a foam cushioning made out of carbon emissions. This year, it also launched the Cloudneo, its first 100 per cent recyclable shoe available via a subscription based circularity program.

Staying true to its athletic roots, On also found time to get visitors into the great outdoors at Basel. On June 17, the brand invited a small group on one of its aptly-named Walks of Life, taking them into the forest outside Basel to watch performance artist Salomé Chatriot blend art, technology, and nature, and to enjoy a happening-slash-meal from the conceptual artist Sandra Knecht.

Don’t worry if you missed out, though. To shorten the wait for the December iteration of Art Basel in Miami, On continues to offer virtual walks through nature via its Sound Walks as well. With versions based on all three Art Basel cities – Basel, Miami, and Hong Kong – these walks include crisp, soothing visuals and ambient soundscapes, blended with real sounds from nature. Even better, they’re motion activated, meaning that you’re encouraged to get moving (a core tenet of On’s philosophy) in order to enjoy them.

Try the Sound Walks out for yourself here.