For the first time in the Middle East, an auction house is exhibiting sneakers.
After seeing unprecedented success during his career, this auction pays homage to the 21st century’s ‘Jordan Year’, presenting The Dynasty Collection which are relics of Michael Jordan’s six NBA finals.
The special sneakers will be exhibited as part of a wider Sotheby’s exhibition in the heart of Dubai at DIFC, opening today with other Middle East art, Islamic art, jewels and watches.
To delve into the concept of auctioneering and curating these private sales, Emirates Man spoke to Edward Gibbs, Chairman of Sotheby’s Middle East, India and Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s Head of Streetwear and Modern Collectibles.
Sotheby’s is a first-time auction house to exhibit streetwear in the Middle East. Talk us through the pieces on display.
BW: We are absolutely thrilled to unveil the Dynasty Collection in Dubai and expand our global reach, specifically our sneaker business. We are confident that this is only the beginning of Sotheby’s sneaker presence in Dubai.
Tell us more about the Dynasty Collection presented at the exhibition this month.
BW: Comprising of 1 Air Jordan from each of Michael Jordan’s six ‘Championship Clinching’ NBA Finals games in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998 – The Dynasty Collection is considered to be the ‘holy grail’ of sneaker collecting. These are the shoes worn in each of the six unforgettable games that secured the Bulls’ dynasty status and established Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time. From his first NBA Finals victory with the Chicago Bulls in 1991 and his 1996 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics following his brief retirement, all the way up to his final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998 – famously referred to as ‘The Last Dance’ – The Dynasty Collection is directly linked to the most important moments from Jordan’s generation-defining career.
From your perspective, what makes Jordan’s so collectable?
BW: The Nike “Air Jordan” is one of the most iconic brands in the history of both streetwear and basketball. Sotheby’s has an established history of selling some of the most coveted pairs of Nike Air Jordans to appear on the market. We have established new benchmarks for collectable sneakers, including the earliest known Michael Jordan Regular Season Game Worn Nikes – the Nike Air Ships, which sold for $1.5 million in October 2021 – establishing a world auction record for a pair of sneakers.
The exhibition will also display one of the finest illustrated manuscripts in existence – tell us more.
EG: We are showcasing an illustrated page from one of the most famous Persian Royal manuscripts ever produced, the Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp. The manuscript as a whole has a storied history – made for the ruler of Iran, gifted to the ruler of Turkey and then passing through the hands of two great collecting families (the Rothschilds and the Houghtons). Today, the majority of pages are in museum collections, and this is just one of a handful that remain in private hands. The estimate of £4 to 6 million reflects the exceptional quality, rarity and importance of the painting. In fact, another leaf from the same manuscript made £8.1 million in October 2022, which represents a record for any Islamic object at auction.
What are some of the noteworthy items visitors can expect at this exhibition?
EG: Alongside the rare pieces from Islamic history, and the debut of Sotheby’s sneakers, visitors will also get a taste of our most important luxury pieces coming up in Geneva, New York and Hong Kong. Rare watches and jewels include pieces by Rolex, Patek Philippe, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Harry Winston, David Webb and more. Covering a number of our walls are modern and contemporary paintings by some of the most important artists from the Middle East, all from the prestigious Al Zayani collection.
There is a growing market for your collectors in the Middle East. How has this evolved over the years?
EG: 2022 marked the 5-year anniversary of Sotheby’s Dubai, and the gallery in the DIFC played host to more exhibitions than ever before – becoming a go-to location for the unveiling of global auction highlights and the home of selling exhibitions working directly with artists. This expansion is reflected by the metrics: in 2022, 40 percent of buyers and bidders from the Middle East have been transacting for the first time.
With digital taking over the auctioneering community, how is Sotheby’s adapting to this revolutionised concept?
EG: Digital is an important portal for young people entering the business, a way of familiarizing themselves with the world of Sotheby’s and all of our global offerings. Recognised as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential Companies in 2022, Sotheby’s saw a strong audience increase in both reach and demographics with continued investments in seamless digital client experiences and cultural collaborations. Over the course of the year, Sotheby’s auctions garnered over 26 million live stream views – an all-time high – with 17.3 million unique visitors to Sothebys.com YTD (up 35 percent in 2021). Our social media platforms globally now have almost 5 million followers, and downloads of Sotheby’s App are up 70 percent YoY. One particularly striking metric is that 91 percent of auction bids were actually placed online last year.
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