The Nike Dunk Low
‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’
Online Auction: 5–14 April 2023 • 2:30 PM EDT • New York

The Nike Dunk Low ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’ 5–14 April 2023 • 2:30 PM EDT • New York

S otheby's is proud to present a special global online auction of the Nike Dunk Low ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’ designed by Virgil Abloh and the artist Futura. A total of eight pairs are being made available publicly for auction in two colorways. Proceeds of this auction shall be donated to support the work of the Virgil Abloh Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Virgil Abloh Securities, the creative company which upholds the far-reaching practice, teachings, and ethos of the late creative visionary, Virgil Abloh. Launching later this year, the Foundation will continue the Abloh Family's work to increase access and opportunities for diverse youth interested in pursuing creative careers. In addition, the Virgil Abloh Foundation has committed to donating half its proceeds to Futura's choice of charities with profound community impact. They are the Art for Justice Fund, the Boys & Girls Club of America, and the Innocence Project.

The Nike Dunk Low ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’

In 2019 at Off-White™ c/o Virgil Abloh’s Spring/Summer 2020 show in Paris amongst the field of white carnations that lined the runway, the world caught its first glimpse of the Nike Dunk Low interpretation by ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’. The sneakers were an anchor piece of the season’s collection which saw the late founder of Off-White™, Virgil Abloh, collaborate with the legendary artist on a series of garments customized with his signature abstract style-shirts, pants, and a baby blue sculptural rendition of Futura’s otherworldly character: Pointman, a reoccurring figure in his artistic universe.

The shoes combine stylistic cues from both creative minds — from Futura’s signature abstract hand to Virgil’s now iconic double-laced take on the classic Nike Dunk silhouette. Virgil conceived of the collaboration as an opportunity to recognize and celebrate Futura not only as a fellow Nike collaborator and designer of some of the most coveted sneakers in Nike’s history, but as a pioneer in the space of art, culture, and commerce that Virgil had inherited and expanded. The sneakers captured the internet’s imagination in their distillation of Virgil’s ethos.

The Dunks are a reinterpretation of a classic Nike silhouette refracted through Virgil’s unique lens which combined his deep understanding of Nike’s history, his subcultural bonafides, and his aesthetic sensibilities.

Virgil Abloh & Futura, Photo Courtesy of Virgil Abloh Securities

Origins of The Nike Dunk Low ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’

For Futura and Virgil, the sneakers represented more than an internet-breaking moment, but a means of disrupting sneaker culture and the cycles of hype that so characterize it in this contemporary moment. The shoes were developed with as minimal a team as possible as to foreclose any possibilities of leaks. The Paris Fashion Week moment was orchestrated to be an unorthodox venue for the debut of a sneaker, harkening back to the element of surprise that characterized early sneaker culture. Perhaps most critically, the shoes were never intended for wide commercial release.

Futura and Virgil, both acutely aware of the dominance of monetary worth in sneaker culture discourse, developed the ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’ Dunks as an answer to the question: “how do we create an invaluable sneaker?” The extremely limited allotment was designated for auction for the benefit of a non-profit of importance to Virgil and Futura. The remaining shoes were to be distributed to Virgil and Futura’s communities —friends, artists, designers — all of deep personal significance to the pair. Each pair was to be a personalized one-of-one gift that was a metaphor for the invaluable spirit of community, friendship, and collaboration.

The Nike Dunk Low ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’ | Blue

The Nike Dunk Low ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’: The Reinterpretation of a Classic Design

Futura and Virgil designed two colorways of the Nike Dunk Low: the blue and white Dunks reference the canonical Nike Dunk High ‘UNC’ that integrate the University of North Carolina Tarheel’s iconic blue. The colorway harkens back to the “Be True To Your School” Dunk series which launched the silhouette in 1985 with collegiate-inspired colors, and the same year’s Air Jordan 1 ‘UNC’ release in the colors of Michael Jordan’s alma-mater. Michael Jordan was a childhood hero of Virgil’s and the Tar Heel Blue Jordan sported in his pre-NBA days represented for Virgil the freedom and possibility of a young MJ. This spoke as well to one of Virgil’s core desires in inviting Futura to collaborate: to introduce the generation of kids who saw him as a hero to meet one of his own heroes in Futura.

The Nike Dunk Low ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’ | Orange

The orange and blue ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’ Dunks are a nod to Futura’s New York Mets fandom and another canonical Nike Dunk Low SB release, the 2002 ‘Danny Supa’ Nike SB Dunk which helped launch Nike’s official skateboarding arm Nike SB. Futura quite literally made his name as a graffiti writer in New York City and was on the cutting edge of the shift from the decipherable letter-making of early graffiti writers to more abstract forms that paralleled some of the concurrent movements happening within the white walls of the formal art world. That signature abstraction dances across the uppers of both colorways.

Both colorways also feature Futura Laboratories ‘FL’ logo which also grace Futura’s incredibly rare FLOM (‘For the Love of Money’) Nike Dunk Highs which similarly were released in 2003 to a small group of close friends and family. The Nike Dunk Low ‘Virgil Abloh™ x Futura Laboratories’ is undoubtedly a spiritual successor to the Nike Dunk High ‘FLOM’ — the 2003 Dunk integrating images of a variety of currencies on the sides of the upper. A modified version of Virgil’s famous Helvetica date and place of origin stamp appears on the medial upper, this time with the “Nike Dunk Low” stylized in Virgil’s handwriting. The signatures of both Virgil and Futura sit underneath the blue semi-transparent soles of both shoes, a quiet imprint of their creators and their hand styles. 

*100% of the Hammer price is being remitted to The Virgil Abloh Foundation. The Buyer’s Premium and Overhead Premium will be retained by Sotheby’s. No portion of the purchase price is tax-deductible.

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