Skateboards from the New York-based brand Supreme will go under the hammer at Christie’s next week and have been compared to the work of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol.
The sale includes skateboard decks produced in collaboration with contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
A set of five “Last Supper” decks featuring blown-up sections of Leonardo da Vinci’s 1490s masterpiece is expected to fetch between $10,000 and $15,000, as is a set of five “Pantone” decks by the New York artist Ryan McGinness.
A set of three boards decorated with Jeff Koons-designed monkeys has an estimate of $3,000 to $5,000, and a set of five decks featuring Damien Hirst’s trademark coloured dots is expected to sell for $4,ooo to $6,000.
At a Sotheby’s auction in January a 17-year-old Supreme fan bought a set of 248 decks for $800,000.
Also up for sale at Christie’s in New York are items from Supreme’s partnerships with others labels, including a $60,000 Louis Vuitton trunk, a $15,000 Spalding basketball and a $5,000 Fender Stratocaster guitar.
Supreme was founded in 1994 by a Briton, James Jeppia, in a small shop on then unfashionable Lafayette Street in downtown New York, and has grown into a global brand valued at more $1bn. The private equity firm Carlyle Group bought half of Supreme’s shares for $500m in 2017.
Jebbia, 56, who was brought up in Crawley, West Sussex, told GQ recently that when he founded the brand “we just tried to make what we thought was the coolest shit we could make”. Its simple red and white logo was inspired by the propaganda art of Barbara Kruger.
Supreme built up a cult following in part by releasing very limited collections. These “drops” regularly lead to long queues outside its 12 shops in cities including New York, London, San Francisco, Paris and Japan.
The queues led to the coining of the term “hypebeast”, referring to consumers hungry for whatever hyped streetwear is released in a given week. Urban Dictionary defines hypebeast as “a kid that collects clothing, shoes and accessories for the sole purpose of impressing others. Although the individual may not have a dime to their name, they like to front like they are making far more then everybody else.”
Caitlin Donovan, of Christie’s, said: “Over the past 20-plus years, Supreme has gone from a brand servicing skaters who were often considered rebels to becoming a highly respected, highly sought-after collecting category in its own right.
“It was the first of the streetwear and ‘hype’ brands to forge the path to an entirely new market and audience of collectors. Supreme has been a cultural lightning rod. Through supply and demand it has transformed young male retail shoppers into secondary market collectors and connoisseurs.”
Noah Davis, a specialist in postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, said: “Seeing the Supreme box logo stamped on to utilitarian items like bolt cutters, basketballs and harmonicas is like Duchamp famously scribbling ‘R. Mutt’ on a urinal. Anything is fair game, and once it’s been anointed by Supreme it becomes elevated, collectible – to some, even holy.”
Bryon Hawes, the author of Drop, a book about Supreme queue culture, said: “Supreme represents a highly crafted, collaborative vision of broader culture. Like Warhol’s Brillo Pad ‘box’, these objects are pop art iconographs. The skate decks retain this spirit with the added layer of being physically emblazoned by some of this century’s most illustrious artists.”