Is a Supreme Skateboard a $14,000 Work of Art?
Paris’s Artcurial is staging the first auction of Supreme objects and collaborations.
$1,200 for two of the Wilson x Supreme footballs from 2010. $1,800 for the Supreme nun chucks from that same year. Over $14,000 for the New York skyline-print The North Face x Supreme summit series jacket from 2008. And over $84,000 for the Louis Vuitton x Supreme skateboard trunk, which was produced just last year.
These are the high estimates for a Supreme auction to take place in Paris later this month under the direction of French auction house Artcurial. The Supreme secondary market is legendary: flipping Supreme is a pastime for young men worldwide—a uniting force! But Supreme’s presence on the auction market is a new development: this will be the first one, ever. The auction is called “C.R.E.A.M.”; as the catalogue notes, “In 1994, legendary New York rappers Wu-Tang Clan sang this popular chorus which became the anthem of a generation. “C.R.E.A.M.,” a single off their first album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 chambers), still resonates around the world as the band’s most popular hit.” (Here’s hoping Wu-Tang super-villain fan Martin Shkreli keeps his hands off the bidding paddle for this one.) “That same year in New York, while the city was earning its spot as the beating heart of contemporary culture, a small boutique dedicated entirely to the world of skateboarding opened its doors.”
The auction includes a selection of 145 of the skateboarding brand’s collaborative products—both the objects it makes in partnerships with brands, and the products it creates in partnership with artists—as well as works by the artists in the Supreme universe, such as KAWS and Richard Prince. As the catalogue states—brace yourself!—“While art was taking to the streets, Supreme was taking the stairs all the way up to the penthouses of the era’s great collectors.” If Grailed is the resale market that has helped make flipping Supreme a seamless art, then the Artcurial auction is perhaps the market that will make Supreme itself…art.
“The idea of the auction is to paint a landscape of three decades starting in the late 1980s,” Artcurial vice chairman Fabien Naudan told Business of Fashion. “The first decade was when street artists, skateboarders and DJ’s were experimenting [with art] without the idea of doing it for money, the next decade was when it became a business and the third one was the final step when it turned into a cash-out decade,” adds Naudan, referring to Supreme’s $500 million sale to private equity firm Carlyle Group in October 2017.
But one wonders if the auction’s prices reveal its mostly about that third chapter. The auction includes several items that many longtime Supreme fanatics might consider ultimate grails: in particular, there is a set of three Louis Vuitton-counterfeit monogram skateboards from 2000, for which Supreme parroted the LV print on a series of boards and shirts, and was sued by the French brand; they reportedly requested that they burn all the products, but Supreme recalled all of them two weeks after shipment. Their scarcity, plus the added irony that the two brands would produce the greatest collab of all time in 2017—make them a particularly desirable item, but the lot is estimated between about $14,300- $17,900 (converted from euros), compared to about $59,625-$84476 for the Louis Vuitton x Supreme trunk, skateboard, and toolkit, which was produced only last year. It’s clearly about rarity and thirst, but to whom are these items rare, and what, precisely, are they thirsty for? The thirst may be real, but is it authentic?
I say this while winking, of course, but to my eye, Barbara Kruger’s I shop therefore I am bag from 1990 is worth much more than about $950-1400. And more importantly: what is in this for Supreme? The Business of Fashion noted that Naudan traveled around the world “for the past two years” to secure the objects for sale, but the provenance is not openly advertised in the auction catalogue. How much Supreme stands to benefit financially from the auction is unclear. “C.R.E.A.M. is the first street culture auction in the traditional sense and brings with it the end of a third decade of this art while giving a preview of the fervor to come,” the exhibition catalogue notes. The Clan’s “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” isn’t exactly a glorification of wealth: is “the fervor to come” just more dumb money?