Sneakerheads might never have thought they’d find themselves at Sotheby’s, the aristocratic auction house, and yet right now, we’re all jamming the traffic of its online platform while it hosts the Cult Canvas auction of super rare (and expensive) one-off Nike sneakers. That’s right: eight. In the singular. Each of the eight pairs are in pristine condition, and is the result of a collaboration with, or inspired by, a range of artists, including Bernard Buffet, Futura 200 and Michael Lau. As Sotheby’s explains, the auction is “based on the notion that art has found a new medium of expression or ‘canvas,' each of the lots are carefully crafted examples that showcase incredible talent in design.”
A particular highlight is the Production Test/Sample Paris Dunk Low, considered the most popular and certainly the most recognisable Nike Dunk in history. As Nike afficionados will know, Production Tests/Samples are extremely rare, and often never come to fruition as commercial items. Of this particular style, 200 pairs were made for Nike’s exhibition in 2003, White Dunk, with this iteration created exclusively for the exhibition’s Paris run, thus the overlay of French painter Buffet’s artwork.
These items certainly don’t come cheap, demonstrating the cultural cache that sneakers have come to assume in contemporary society. Current bids start at USD3000 but, at the higher end of the scale, estimates are reach USD80,000 (that for the Bernard Buffet & Nike ‘Paris’ Production Test/Sample Nike Dunk Low Pro SB, and only in size 8.5, mind you). Below, a short documentary looks back at the Nike Pigeon Dunk riot, a pretty significant moment in 2005 that many consider to represent the birth of sneaker culture. Designed by Jeff Staple of SSple Design, it was one of the biggest drops of its time and, on the day it was released in Staple’s Lower East Side store, Reed Space, the crowd ballooned to such a size that the New York City police were called in, making front page news.
The Cult Canvas 2020 auction runs at Sotheby's until 1130pm (+08) on Wednesday 30 September (1130am, Thursday 1 October for Singapore).