From their modest origins in the mid-nineteenth century to high-end sneakers created in the past decade, sneakers have become a global obsession. The Rise of Sneaker Culture (July 10–October 4, 2015, Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 5th Floor) is the first exhibition to explore the complex social history and cultural significance of the footwear now worn by billions of people throughout the world.
The exhibition, which includes approximately 150 pairs of sneakers, looks at the evolution of the sneaker from its beginnings to its current role as status symbol and urban icon. Included are works from the archives of manufacturers such as Adidas, Converse, Nike, Puma, and Reebok as well as private collectors such as hip-hop legend Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, sneaker guru Bobbito Garcia, and Dee Wells of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder. Also featured are sneakers by Prada and other major fashion design houses and designers, as well as those made in collaboration with artists including Damien Hirst and Kehinde Wiley. Film footage, interactive media, photographic images, and design drawings contextualize the sneakers and explore the social history, technical innovations, fashion trends, and marketing campaigns that have shaped sneaker culture over the past two centuries.
The Rise of Sneaker Culture is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto. It is curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator, Bata Shoe Museum.
The Brooklyn presentation is organized by Lisa Small, Curator of Exhibitions, Brooklyn Museum. A fully illustrated catalogue, co-published by the AFA in partnership with the Bata Shoe Museum and Rizzoli, accompanies the exhibition. Generous support for the national tour of the exhibition is provided by Macy’s.