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Sotheby's drops first ever sale of ultra-rare artist-designed Nike Sneakers
The ‘NYC Pigeon’ Nike Dunk Low Pro SB (est. $25,000-30,000), referred to as “the sneaker which started it all” declaring the birth of sneaker culture, designed by Jeff Ng, ‘Jeff Staple’ of Staple Design. Courtesy Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Moments ago, a sale of eight ultra-rare and pristine artist-created sneakers dropped on in a sale titled ‘Cult Canvas.’ All made exclusively by Nike, the items celebrate the cross section between art and fashion, illustration and design, and sport and culture. Open for bidding for one week-only, the auction comprises one-off limited-edition pairs and production samples, all of which were made in collaboration, or incorporate an artist’s work: from French Expressionist Bernard Buffet to New York street artist Futura 2000 and Michael Lau, the pioneer of designer toy figures, whose 2006 ‘Gardener Wood’ Nike Dunk Low Pro SB was inspired by his very own skateboarding comic strip, titled Gardener. The sale is attributed to Ryan Chang, Founder and Chief Curator of Applied Arts [] – a media company that celebrates sneakers as fine-art objects. Speaking of ‘Cult Canvas’, Chang said: “These sneakers possess historical and cultural significance, rarity, and aesthetic appeal. They are art objects created by some of the most prominent figures in the category, and I cannot think of a better partner to explore this new dynamic with than Sotheby’s.”

Based on the notion that art has found a new medium of expression or ‘canvas’, every item on offer are the most coveted examples desired by sneaker collectors worldwide. Among them is the ‘NYC Pigeon’ Nike Dunk Low Pro SB (est. $25,000-30,000), referred to as “the sneaker which started it all” declaring the birth of sneaker culture, designed by Jeff Ng, ‘Jeff Staple’ of Staple Design. When it was released in 2005, Nike produced 150 pairs-only, yet this didn’t deter the hype and large queues which formed on the first day outside Staples’ Lower East Side storefront, Reed Space. Remembered as one of the wildest Nike releases in history, the crowd grew so large that the New York City Police were called to keep things in order, employing police cars to escort lucky buyers’ home in a safe manner. After 20 people were arrested on the opening night, The New York Post published a front-page story under the headline ‘Sneaker Riot!’ the following day. Signed by Staple, the design itself was inspired by New York’s pigeons; the colour of its outsole reminiscent of the bird’s foot.

‘Cult Canvas’ also includes one pair of just 24 ever-made Nike Dunk High Pro SB ‘FLOM’ sneakers designed by Leonard Hilton McGurr, AKA Futura 2000 – a pseudonym which nods to the artist’s favourite film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ (est. $50,000-60,000). Released in 2005, the sneaker is considered one of, if not the rarest, Nike SB since only three pairs were raffled to the public, while the remaining 21 were gifted to friends or family members. Often dubbed the ‘urban Renaissance man’, Futura 2000 titled the model ‘FLOM’, an acronym meaning ‘For Love of Money’, binding its exterior with a tile-based pattern of denominations of printed money. Rap artist Travis Scott is counted among its collectors. The design and colour palette play on the artist’s debt to the graffiti scene, known as one of the founding fathers of the movement, starting his career in the 1970s tagging subway walls. Yet, his influence was felt far outside street art, as he also collaborated with punk band The Clash, creating live woks during their concerts, as well as designing their album art.

From ‘Dunk Highs’ to ‘Dunk Lows’, a production sample of the revered ‘Paris’ Nike Dunk Low Pro SB joins the line-up (est. $70,000-80,000). Overlaid with the workings of Bernard Buffet, the pair were created during Nike’s testing process before the final design went into production, and no two pair are the same. Created for the occasion of Nike’s travelling White Dunk Exhibition in 2003, approximately 200 editions of the final design were produced for the tour’s host cities. This pair in ‘Rope/Special Cardinal’ colours represents Paris and encompasses a clown and ballerina for which Buffet is most known. Elsewhere is a sample pair of Nike Dunk SB Low by Japanese illustrator Katsuya Terada. The shoe was originally intended for the White Dunk Exhibition too, though this prototype was never released. This shoe is one of just 12 in existence.

“This is a highly curated and extremely selective grouping of some of the most important artist-created sneakers and designs to be released in Nike’s history. We’re trying an exciting new format for sneakers in this auction, naming the artists behind the designs first followed by the particular model. Several of the items here are among the most coveted releases by Nike. Many of the artists, like Futura, have strong legacies in the art world. Futura belongs a prestigious group of artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Dondi White, all of whom came out of New York City in the 80s and exhibited at The Fun Gallery.” --Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s Director of eCommerce Development

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