Phillips Displays one-of-a-kind grails at Tongue + Chic

A sneaker exhibition featuring sneakers by Takashi Murakami, KAWS, Kehinde Wiley, Jenny Holzer, Damien Hirst, Shantell Martin and more

Phillips is a leading global platform for buying and selling 20th and 21st century art and design. With dedicated expertise in the areas of 20th Century and Contemporary Art, Design, Photographs, Editions, Watches, and Jewelry, Phillips offers professional services and advice on all aspects of collecting. Their auctions and exhibitions are held at salesrooms in New York, London, Geneva, and Hong Kong, and in addition to providing selling and buying opportunities through auction, Phillips brokers private sales and offers assistance with appraisals, valuations, and other financial services.

So what does all this have to do with you, the guy reading this?

Shantell Martin

Well, the esteemed house recently put together an exciting selection of one-of-a-kind sneakers, designed by today's leading artists. Private collectors, artists, and company archives agreed to lend their pieces to the exhibition, which included shoes designed by Takashi Murakami, KAWS, Kehinde Wiley, Jenny Holzer, Damien Hirst, and Shantell Martin, among others.

Trevor 'Trouble' Andrew

Curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, in collaboration with Arnold Lehman, Phillips Senior Advisor and former director of the Brooklyn Museum, Tongue + Chic  aimed to celebrate these utilitarian objects, which have become enmeshed in the realms of fashion, art, and culture.

shoe surgeon

Amongst all of the heat was one standout pair of shoes in particular, seen above, 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, with all proceeds benefiting the Thomson Reuters Foundation's antislavery initiatives. This custom-made pair of trainers – containing hidden facts about slavery – were 'unboxed' by YouTube star Jacques Slade earlier this year.


This is important, as there are more slaves today than in all of recorded human history combined, fuelling a global criminal enterprise worth an estimated $150 billion per year. Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said, "The details of these very shoes brought the issue of modern slavery to a huge new audience of young consumers, many of whom would never have questioned the human price of the clothes they wear. The shoes have become a symbol of the action we can take to fight one of the world's most shameful of crimes. Now they will be exhibited alongside the work of some truly great artists. This campaign is one of the most powerful we have been involved in – and we are hugely grateful to Phillips, Jacques Slade – and TBWA\Chiat\Day who worked pro bono on this initiative."

Jimm Laser and Kith

Elizabeth Semmelhack, Curator of Tongue +  Chic, Senior Curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, 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."

Kehinde Wiley

"Phillips is delighted to have the opportunity to work with The Thomson Reuters Foundation and Elizabeth Semmelhack in bringing these works of art to the fore, several of which have never been seen publicly," said Arnold Lehman, Phillips' Senior Advisor, who was also instrumental in the Brooklyn Museum's Killer Heels  and Sneaker Culture  exhibition. "We are also grateful to the many collectors who have so generously loaned these pieces from their collection, to be displayed alongside the pair that will be auctioned for such an important and timely cause."


In conjunction with the exhibition, Phillips offered panel discussions, sneaker selfie booths, social media contests, and more to bring together the passionate community of collectors and enthusiasts. 

Kind of makes you want to cop a brand new pair of kicks, right? 

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