About the exhibition

Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture

The American Federation of Arts (AFA) is proud to announce the national tour of Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture. Originating at the Bata Shoe Museum, this is the first museum exhibition in the United States to examine the sneaker’s complex and fascinating social history, from its origins in the mid-19th century to its role in the present day as a status symbol of urban culture.

Sneakers have long been loved as a staple of casual fashion, transcending gender, age, and socioeconomic categories to become the footwear of choice for millions across the globe. Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture tells the sneaker’s story through approximately 150 pairs drawn from the Bata Shoe Museum and Northampton Museums and Art Gallery; the archives of adidas AG, Converse, Nike, and Reebok; and a range of significant private collectors, such as Bobbito Garcia, Dee Wells of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder, Eric Haze, and legendary hip-hop group Run–DMC.

Organized into six sections, Out of the Box includes iconic sneakers ranging from an 1860 spiked running shoe, track shoes from the 1936 Olympics, an original Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1, and early Adidas Superstars, to contemporary examples designed by such prominent figures as Damien Hirst, Christian Louboutin, Kanye West, and Nike sneaker design legend Tinker Hatfield. Out of the Box also features sneakers and related prototype drawings from Nike Archives, which span the career of legendary designers like Tinker Hatfield, as well as a complete presentation of Air Jordans I–XX3 on loan from the Kosow Sneaker Museum, which highlight the pivotal role this coveted series of sneakers has played in the rise of contemporary sneaker culture.

From its historical origins in the recreational pastimes of the elite and the increasing importance of physical fitness to its role today at the vanguard of athletic performance and urban style, the sneaker has been a pivotal component of dress for more than 150 years. Out of the Box examines how the sneaker’s ever-evolving cultural significance offers insights into the world in which we live, work, and play.

Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum. The exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator of the Bata Shoe Museum.

Generous support for the national tour of the exhibition is provided by:

Tour Information

Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture will travel to:

Brooklyn Museum

July 10–October 4, 2015 More Info

Toledo Museum of Art

December 3–February 28, 2016 More Info

High Museum of Art

June 11–August 14, 2016 More Info

Speed Art Museum

September 9–November 27, 2016 More Info

Oakland Museum of California

December 22, 2016–April 2, 2017 More Info

Art Gallery of Western Australia

May 13–September 4, 2017 More Info

The AFA

The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit institution founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs.

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The Bata Shoe Museum

The Bata Shoe Museum's unique collection of over 13,000 artifacts ranges from the earliest civilizations on earth to the catwalks of today's leading designers. With a mission to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of the role of footwear in the social and cultural life of humanity, the Bata Shoe Museum acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits material evidence related to the history of footwear and shoemaking, illustrating the living habits, the culture, and the customs of people.

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Credits

Exhibition:

This website is produced in conjunction with the exhibition Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture, organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum.

The exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Semmelhack, Senior Curator, Bata Shoe Museum, and all web content is by Elizabeth Semmelhack except when explicitly stated otherwise.

Generous support for the national tour of the exhibition is provided by

Curatorial:

Michelle Hargrave, Curator & China Initiative Project Director

Lindsey O'Connor, Curatorial Assistant

Kirstin Purtich, Curatorial Assistant

Publications & Communications:

Audrey Walen, Manager of Publications

Natalie Espinosa, Manager of Communications & Marketing

Design & Development:

CAID

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