The Rise of Sneaker Culture

Nike.   Air Jordan I  , 1985. Nike Archives. (Photo: Ron Wood. Courtesy of American Federation of Arts)

Nike. Air Jordan I, 1985. Nike Archives. (Photo: Ron Wood. Courtesy of American Federation of Arts)

The Rise of Sneaker Culture

With its dynamic combination of scholarship and popular appeal, audiences across the U.S. will be introduced to iconic and incredibly rare shoes from the 1830s to today. This expanded presentation was organized in collaboration with the Bata Shoe Museum. “The AFA is proud to work with the Bata Shoe Museum and our museum partners on such a groundbreaking and important exhibition,” AFA Director Pauline Willis noted. “Shifting the sneaker’s context from street to art museum revolutionizes our understanding of this item of visual culture; by viewing sneakers within the museum, their radical cultural significance is revealed.” The exhibition opens at the Brooklyn Museum July 10–October 4, 2015, before traveling to the Toledo Museum of Art from December 3–February 28, 2016; a venue to be announced soon; and the Speed Art Museum from September 9–November 27, 2016.

Out of the Box features sneakers from a range of significant private collectors, museums, and archives, including adidas AG, Converse Archives, Kosow Sneaker Museum, Nike Archives, Northampton Museums and Art Gallery, and Reebok Archives. “An exhibition as complex as this could not have happened without the support of key figures within the sneaker community,” stated the exhibition curator Elizabeth Semmelhack. Inspired by the importance of this exhibition, many shoes have been generously donated, while many other sneakers, which have rarely, if ever, been exhibited publicly, have been entrusted to the care of the American Federation of Arts for the extended tour. Among them are an 1860s spiked running shoe, an original 1917 Converse All Star/Non Skid, a pair of 1936 track shoes, the original Air Force 1, and early Adidas Superstars, as well as contemporary sneaker collaborations with prominent figures such as Damien Hirst, Jeremy Scott, Jeff Staple, and Kanye West, and many others. Out of the Box also features sneakers and related prototype drawings from the archives of Nike, which span the career of legendary sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield, as well as a complete presentation of Air Jordans I–XX3 on loan from the Kosow Sneaker Museum which highlight the pivotal role this coveted series of sneakers has played in the rise of contemporary sneaker culture.

View entire press release

Tour Dates & Locations

Brooklyn Museum : July 10–October 4, 2015

 Toledo Museum of Art : December 3–February 28, 2016

Speed Art Museum : September 9–November 27, 2016

About The American Federation of Art

The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit institution founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs.

About Bata Shoe Museum

Located in Toronto, Canada, the BSM has over a thousand shoes and related artefacts (from a collection numbering over 13,000) on exhibit in architect Raymond Moriyama’s award-winning five floor structure. The BSM celebrates the style and function of footwear in four impressive galleries. Footwear on display ranges from Chinese bound foot shoes and ancient Egyptian sandals to chestnut-crushing clogs and glamourous platforms. Over 4,500 years of history and a collection of 20th-century celebrity shoes are reflected in the semi-permanent exhibition, All About Shoes