When we think of art, the usual comes to mind: the Mona Lisa at the Louvre or the Gauguin at the Guggenheim, for example. But here’s another you may have not considered: sneakers.
The Brooklyn Museum, which holds more than 1.5 million works of art, is showcasing the artistic value and history of sneakers in an exhibit called The Rise of Sneaker Culture. Lisa Small, the exhibit's curator, told TODAY's Sheinelle Jones that the collection explores the overlap between the history of the athletic shoe and its cultural significance.
“Sneakers really intersect with so many interesting parts of cultural history and material culture,” Lisa Small, curator of the exhibit told TODAY's Sheinelle Jones Sunday. “You can come if you love to look at sneakers, but you can also come if you want to learn that history as well.”
Inside the exhibit are rows of sneakers on display, with an explanation for each shoe on its importance and significance in history.
Among the collection, sneakers worn by four-time Olympic track and field gold medalist Jesse Owens. Owens in the 1936 Olympics. At the Berlin Games during Hitler's regime, Owens wore a pair of sneakers from German brand Adidas. It was the first shoe sponsorship for an African American athlete.
Sean “Paper Chasr” Williams is the co-host and producer of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder (OSD), a multi-media company that educates people about the sneaker industry.
In the U.S., sneakers generate $22 million per year (worldwide that number is about $55-million). Williams said that shoes are often used an artistic outlet, for example Engish artist Damian Hirst’s 2010 red Converse sneaker, which was apart of the AIDS awareness initiative.
“They’re being used as a vehicle for creativity and expressing things that we need to pay attention to,” Williams said.
And sneakers can cost tens of thousands of dollars, Williams said. The most he’s heard of someone paying is $17,000.
“There’s a love that people just have to feel must be expressed through obtaining that shoe,” he said.
But sneaker enthusiasts or “sneaker heads,” as they are commonly called, do more than collect shoes for a fashion statement, said Williams.
“They’re not just things you put on and kick around in,” he said. “People collect art. People collect cars. Sneakers are no different.”