Christie’s is launching a new division dedicated exclusively to luxury sneakers, streetwear, and sports collectibles. To mark the occasion, the house is holding a private sale of two rare pairs of sneakers: the Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototype and the Nike Donda West Air Jordan VI.
Entitled Department X, the new sector is spearheaded by Caitlin Donovan, the current head of handbags and accessories at Christie’s Americas.
Launching “with a finger on the pulse of popular culture, and the evolution of what is defined as luxury today,” Department X “will cross several genres of popular culture and collecting—music, fashion, and sports history,” Donovan said in a statement.
Christie’s is hoping to cash in on the hype—and considerable capital—surrounding streetwear by offering the most expensive pair of shoes ever sold in its inaugural outing.
The Nike Air Yeezy 1 Prototype, designed by Nike creative director Mark Smith and designer Tiffany Beers for the rapper Kanye West, were worn during a legendary performance by the hip-hop star at the 50th Annual Grammy Music Awards in 2007. The same pair sold for $1.8 million in a private transaction at Sotheby’s in 2021. The buyer, an investment platform known as Rares, buys and sells fractional ownership in high-end sneakers.
In addition, Christie’s will offer the Nike Donda West Air Jordan VI, a rare pair of rose-patterned Jordans that West dedicated to his late mother in 2008. The Donda West VIs were never released to the public and created only for a small circle of West’s friends; only four to six pairs are believed to exist, according to Christie’s.
Christie’s latest division builds on the growing market for hip-hop memorabilia, streetwear, and sports collectibles, which began a sharp uptick as in 2020 as people began looking for places to park stimulus money and earnings from crypto and the stock markets. Between 2019 and 2021, the market for sports collectables alone grew from $1 billion to $10 billion, according to research by the specialist house Goldin Auctions.
These new categories have also helped auction houses appeal to new collectors. Crypto entrepreneur Ryan Zurrer, for example, bought the infamous K.O.N.Y (King of New York) crown, worn by the late Brooklyn-based rapper Notorious B.I.G., for $594,000 in September 2020.
Department X’s inaugural offering, “Ye Walks,” will be held as a private selling exhibition at the auction house’s New York location from September 27 through October 26.