Phillips: Sneakers X Artists Exhibition


What: Tongue + Chic 

Where: 450 Park Avenue, New York


When: 16 July – 31 August 2018


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Once reserved for the use of privileged tennis players, the humble sneaker has a cultural and social history more colourful than you might imagine. Loved by burglars for their stealthy rubber sole and styled by the likes of Michael Jordan on the basketball court the shoe represents everything from race to national identity, class and even criminality, and has even influenced its very own art-movement…


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The movement known as “sneaker-art” was pioneered by Liverpool born artist Dave White, with a series of works in his unique expressive style. Oozing colour and vigour the pop art inspired sneaker portraits earned him collaborations with some of the world’s biggest brands including Nike, Jordan and Coca-Cola and led to exhibitions around the world from Shanghai to the USA.


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Tongue + Chic, an exhibition which celebrates the sneaker for straddling the divide between fashion and art opened yesterday on Park Avenue, New York, featuring White’s masterfully executed sneaker collaboration with Nike alongside a selection of one-of-a-kind sneakers by Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Trevor "Trouble" Andrew, KAWS, Daniel Arsham, Stash, Daniel "Mache" Gamache, theheyyman and Shantell Martin.


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Phillips are also pleased to include one pair of shoes, commissioned by TBWA\Chiat\Day NY and handcrafted by the Shoe Surgeon. The sneakers were featured in a high profile anti-slavery campaign on behalf of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and will be exhibited and auctioned online. All proceeds will benefit the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s antislavery initiatives. The custom-made pair of trainers – containing hidden facts about slavery – were ‘unboxed’ in front of an audience of millions by YouTube star Jacques Slade earlier this year. There are more slaves today than in all of recorded human history combined, fueling a global criminal enterprise worth an estimated $150 billion per year. 


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Curator Elizabeth Semmelhack said, “Today, prominent artists are engaging with the complicated cultural significance of sneakers by creating thought-provoking and highly covetable works that straddle the divide between fashion and art. Their work points to new directions that sneakers can take as vehicles for social engagement. From works that reimagine the architecture of sneakers to those that use sneakers to advocate for change, the works in this exhibition show just how far a pair of sneakers can go.” 


With an exciting programme of events in conjunction with the show including an auction of selected works with Phillips, panel discussions, sneaker selfie booths, social media contests Tongue & Cheek is an exciting and innovative exhibition, and really worth a visit.