Sneakerheads Smashed Expectations at an Auction of Designs by Virgil Abloh and Futura, With a Single Pair Netting Over $100,000

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Although only eight in number, the pairs of Nike Dunk Low basketball sneakers that Sotheby’s sold on April 14 walloped their pre-sale estimates, scoring a total of $565,150 (fees included) against a high estimate of $32,000. The limited-edition shoes, designed in collaboration between the late Off-White designer Virgil Abloh and famed graffiti artist Futura, averaged $71,000 per pair, eclipsing each pair’s estimate of $2,000–$4,000.

The highest earning lot, a size 10 pair in orange (only two colors were made, orange and pale blue), fetched nearly $108,000—27 times its high estimate. It also received the highest number of bids with 74. A total of 492 bids came from 17 countries, with each pair attracting 62 bids on average. A Sotheby’s spokesperson told Artnet News that over half of those bidders were new to the auction house.

The global online auction was the first release of the Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories Dunks. They made their runway debut at Off-White’s Spring/Summer 2020 menswear show in Paris, which also saw the designer and artist partner on a series of spray-painted prints. The two designed the sneakers with a small team to prevent potential leaks. 

From the beginning, the sneakers were intended as one-offs for the show, not for commercial release. A limited quantity was designated for auction—to benefit charities important to Abloh and Futura—while the remaining handful of samples were personalized and gifted among their friends and art circles.

Virgil Abloh, Gigi Hadid, and two models are seen backstage during the Off-White menswear Spring/Summer 2020 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on June 19, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Pierre Suu/Getty Images)

Virgil Abloh, Gigi Hadid (left) and two models backstage at Off-White’s menswear Spring/Summer 2020 show in Paris. Photo: Pierre Suu/Getty Images.

Virgil Abloh imagined the collaboration as an opportunity to recognize Futura’s lifelong contributions to street art, with the show acting as a nod to the early graffiti scene of New York, where the artist came up. Early on, in the 1980s, Futura exhibited works at Patti Astor’s Fun Gallery alongside pieces by Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Hambleton, and Kenny Scharf. While he’s been mostly known as a graffiti artist, he also worked as a graphic designer, illustrating album covers for bands including The Clash.

A reinterpretation of a classic Nike style, the Dunks blend the artistic trademarks of each creative—Futura’s abstract graffiti style and Abloh’s signature double-lacing. The Sotheby’s sale marked the first and only opportunity for the public to acquire the coveted court shoes, which were offered without reserve.

The pale blue version of the Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories Dunks. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

The pale blue version of the Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories Dunks. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The full hammer price (not including fees) of all eight lots will be donated to the Virgil Abloh Foundation, launching later this year. The foundation seeks to empower and provide opportunities for diverse youth interested in pursuing creative careers. In addition, the foundation has committed to donating half of its proceeds to three charities of Futura’s choosing: the Art for Justice Fund, the Boys & Girls Club of America, and the Innocence Project.

“The ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’ Dunks are iconic in every respect, but most notably for uniting two of the most brilliant and creative artists of our generation,” said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s Head of Streetwear and Modern Collectibles. “I am extremely grateful that Sotheby’s was able to be a part of these shoes’ next journey, and in turn, raise funds for the Virgil Abloh Foundation—whose mission was so deeply personal and dear to Virgil.”

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