The Art of Skateboarding — Interview with Industry Legend Alex Corporan
In tandem with our partnership with Heritage and their upcoming live sale, The Future is Now, Katya Khazei provides insight into the impact of skateboard culture on the art and design world, and speaks with legend Alex Corporan about the influence of brands like Supreme and their collaborators.
Skateboarding culture continues to have massive influence and appeal. Something about the fact that this sport has no rules, is a form of individual expression, and can be done just about anywhere has inspired legions of rookies and professionals alike.
Skateboard art and design has been an integral part of this culture since its beginning; for skaters, their board is their medium for expression, often painting them, creating designs, or placing stickers to reflect their individuality. Brands like Supreme have embraced this, in turn bolstering their own colossal influence, by collaborating with blue chip artists like Jeff Koons, John Baldessari, and Ai Weiwei. Fine art and skateboarding might seem to be strange bedfellows at first, but both worlds celebrate and empower the iconoclasts, the misfits, and outsiders of society. These limited-edition skateboards have evolved into iconic works of art in their own right, providing snapshots into trends of contemporary art and culture.
Alex Corporan, born and raised in NYC, was and continues to be, a trailbazer in the industry. He has been front and center of this confluence of art and skateboarding culture since the 1990s when he joined Supreme as the general manager of their Lafayette store. He is a skateboarding industry legend, documentarian of 90s skateboard culture (with his shoebox photos), consultant for major lifestyle brands including Levi’s, GoPro, X-Large, and The Hundreds, and even made a cameo in Larry Clark’s Kids. We were lucky enough to interview Corporan and find out how he got into skateboarding and what he’s up to now, including his recently opened gallery/bar on the Lower East Side.
Katya Khazei: How did you get into skateboarding?
Alex Corporan: My best friend Freddy around 1985 got a skateboard and I looked out the window and I was like WTF. As any friend would do I wanted to get one also. Once I ordered my board which was a Tony Hawk Bonite board from Skates On Haight from San Francisco I immediately fell in love and never looked back. It was pretty scary because skateboarding wasn’t cool back then and skate shops were beyond rare, so you would have to figure out how to get a skate mag. Then you had to rotary dial the number to order a board.
KK: Larry Clark’s Kids was a powerful, and at the time controversial, film about NYC skateboarding in the early 1990s. Tell us about your role in the film and your experience as it relates to the skate culture at the time.
AC: When Kids was in process it was a huge time in NY: from the Club, Hardcore, Gay, Straight. Everything was hot again and we were the kids of Studio 54 and no one understood what was going on. Harmony (Korine) and Larry (Clark) were really in tune with us and decided to make the movie. It was basically a reality show but on the big screen. It was a trip because none of us were aspiring actors at the time.
KK: I’m sure everyone asks you, but what was Supreme like in the 90s while you were the GM? How did you end up there?
AC: I was asked to be a part of it by my boy Chappy who was working at Union at the time. I was at the ASR tradeshow in San Diego when he told me all about it in ‘93 and asked me if I was coming back to NY because he was excited that the shop was about to open soon. I was super stoked because shops were a rarity at that time. The Supreme shop was live in ‘94 and it was perfect timing because Zoo York had launched a year before. So it was the NY crew all together again, including all the amigos up and down the East Coast. I actually ended up working there late 96, early 97 I believe.
KK: How has the brand transformed since?
AC: The Supreme Brand has transformed into a mega empire. I’m so stoked that I was a part of creating the whole madness and one of the scientists from the beginning. I nearly have no words on how the brand has exploded. All I have to say is James Jebbia is a wonderful person and really has given us at the time leeway to do whatever we want with the brand as long as we respected it and did it right and that’s why it’s where it’s at now.
KK: What inspired you then and what inspires you now?
AC: Skateboarding is my everything. My daughter Sydney is my life. My girlfriend Flute is my inspiration and I just love to motivate others and build together.
KK: You recently opened a bar/art gallery in NYC. Tell us about it and your vision for the space.
AC: Sensei Gallery has been a vision of mine for a long time with my partner Joe Latimore. It’s a Gallery/Bar with the vision of when you go to a art/photo show you go there once, drink the free drinks, mingle and be out in 3 hrs. My theory is why not have a bar with your art for 2 to 3 weeks, promote yourself, hang and have a place to chill. White walls get uncomfortable after a while. Sensei is meant to be warm and sexy with brick walls as a canvas to show your work. Joe and I created a space where you can have fun again.
KK: What else are you working on?
AC: I’m working on pretty much everything to retire at 50 so I have 5 years left. I’m collaborating with Adidas, The New Standard Edition, and Mission Workshop, launching the 10-year anniversary of my book Full Bleed in 2020, and in the works of finally starting my skateboard company.
Explore Heritage Auctions: The Future is Now on Artsy, and place max bids on more than 150 artworks. Live bidding opens in Los Angeles on Sunday, June 11th, at 11:00am PT (2:00pm ET).