Sneakertopia, a 15,000-square-foot celebration of sneaker culture, has taken up residence at the HHLA complex in Westchester, where it will remain through at least the end of 2019. Getting in the door isn’t inexpensive (timed entrance tickets are $38 for adults, $23 for kids), and actually finding the door can be a bit challenging (it’s in a former department store space in what used to be the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center, just off the 405 Freeway).
But anyone clearing those hurdles will find himself surrounded by some seriously mind-bending sneaker-themed art, not to mention some of the rarest sneakers around.
The brainchild of entertainment executive Steve Harris and startup entrepreneur Steve Brown and curated by Justin Fredericks, the temporary exhibition, which opened Oct. 25, is divided into a series of themed rooms, each addressing a different aspect of sneaker synergy. It starts off, appropriately enough, with “The Playground,” dominated by a series of murals.
Notably, the first up is a towering midswing image of tennis great Serena Williams by artist James Haunt, with text and typeface paying homage to Virgil Abloh’s quote-mark-heavy Off-White style. Displayed in a nearby case are several pairs of Nike x Off-White collaborative kicks. Nearby is a Michael Jordan mural (also by Haunt) and a selection of Air Jordan sneakers, also in museum-like vitrines. On the opposite side of the room, an entire wall by muralist Jonas Never pays homage to skateboarding legends Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero and Lizzie Armanto while a 20-foot skateboard provides the perfect prop for an Instagram post.
Next up is “The Festival,” the largest room in the exhibition, which highlights music’s connection to sneaker culture via a series of colorful murals by L.A.-based graffiti artist Man One (Kanye West, Rihanna and Pharrell Williams are among those whose sneaker collaborations are depicted), a motion mural of Run DMC (also by Man One in collaboration with Syndrome Studio) and a performance stage designed to look like an Adidas shoebox. (Fredericks said the stage will be used for events during Sneakertopia’s run.) Among the coveted kicks displayed here are a super-rare pair of Air Jordan 4 Retro Encore sneakers (only 23 were made), a 2017 collaboration between rapper Eminem and the brand that Fredericks says are priced at $25,000.
Those sneakers, like the rest of the non-art footwear on display — 200 pairs at any given time — are from a 25,000-pair collection amassed by L.A. collector Daniel Ghattas. “We’re featuring [shoes from] probably the world’s most expensive collection,” Fredericks said, before dropping the other shoe that the sneakers on display are for sale (if your wallet is big enough) — though only through the on-site gift shop.
If the rare sneakers aren’t enough to get sneakerheads over to Sneakertopia, the deep bench of sneaker-themed art probably will be, including the parody movie posters by McFlyy in “The Backlot,” which explores sneakers in the movies (including a sneaker-centric faux sequel to “Forrest Gump” and a “Back to the Future” film set in 2120), and the pieces y in the art-focused “Art & Sole Gallery,” which includes Jason Dussault’s mosaic sneaker creations, customized kicks by Torrance-based Katty Customs, and a 20-foot Adidas Superstar made out of recycled candy wrappers and cardboard by Montreal-based artist Smoluk.
The “Dream Room,” the penultimate stop on the Sneakertopia tour, is dominated by the most memorable piece of art in the exhibition: a hanging mobile-like sculpture by perceptual artist Michael Murphy. Viewed from straight on, it resembles a three-dimensional, outsize Air Jordan 1. But as you move left, the shifting point of view reveals the instantly recognizable Jumpman logo.
Sneaker culture has become big business, of course, a point not at all lost on the exhibition’s organizers, who tackle the topic — twice. The first time via a parody pop-up shop called Frugal (“If Supreme and Flight Club had a baby, this would be their room,” reads the sign at the entrance). The second time via the exhibition’s gift shop, called Limited Edition, which will stock limited-edition, constantly updated T-shirts, art prints and pieces of art, including versions of Murphy’s and Dussault’s sculptures.
Sneakertopia Los Angeles
Where: 6081 Center Drive, Suite 222, Los Angeles
When: Through Dec. 31