Art and pop-culture tend to be seen as opposites. While the former is relatively hard to access for non-experts the latter is, by design, available for anyone regardless of their level of education. There is, however, a history of artists crossing over the border separating the two.

Artists like Andy Warhol have cemented their place as part of pop culture. One of the best ways to recognize this is through fashion — Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup Cans have been printed on everything from canvas bags to t-shirts. Today, it’s not uncommon for designers to draw inspiration from classic art, or for classic art to grace pieces we use in our daily lives. Below are some examples of how art and the humble shoe go hand in hand.


Vans and the Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh’s art is probably among the most recognizable in the world, making it an ideal candidate for a collection in the intersection of high art and pop-culture. In 2018 the Van Gogh Museum announced a collaboration with none other than skateboarding clothing brand Vans.

The collaboration revolved around Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait, as well as paintings like SunflowersAlmond Blossom, and Skull inspired pieces of clothing and footwear that were made available worldwide. Part of the profits were donated to the preservation of the Vincent Van Gogh’s art collection.


Keith Haring x Reebok

Heavily influenced by graffiti, New York artist Keith Haring used his now recognizable iconography as a form of social activism. His work has been featured everywhere, from day-care centers to the Venice Biennale.

Haring’s relationship with Reebok goes back to 2013 when, in a more tri-dimensional approach, cut-outs of the artist’s work where imposed into Reebok’s sneakers. The company is planning to release another collection. The collection will take inspiration from Haring’s famous dancing figures and subway chalk drawings. It will be printed over more traditional Reebok silhouettes.

MOCA x Vans

One of the largest contemporary art venues in the world, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago frequently features exhibits in the intersection of art and pop-art: from David Bowie to the work of cartoonist Chris Ware. Now, SoleSavy reports on a new collection between the MOCA and beloved sneaker brand Vans.

The collection features Vans sneakers decorated with designs by Californian artists Frances Stark, Judy Baca, and Brenna Youngblood. The collection, to be released in early November, will also feature signatures as well as phrases associated with the artists as part of a unique set of colorways.

Nike x Steve Harrington

In 2019 Nike celebrated Earth Day with the release of three sustainable Flyleather sneakers designed by artist Keith Harrington. Famous for his peculiar aesthetic, which mixes psychedelic pop and muted beach colors, Harrington seemed like the ideal choice, as the artist has expressed his affinity for environmental pieces.

The sneakers, made with 50% recycled leather fiber, feature many of Harrington’s motifs, like palm trees and his famous anthropomorphic dog printed on iconic Nike’s models like the Air Force 1, Blazer and Cortez. It’s a collection that goes easy on the eyes, and the environment.

Ruohan Wang x Nike

Germany-based experimental visual artist Ruohan Wang had previously joined Nike in 2017 for a collaboration. The project consisted of designing an Air Force 1 and a Blazer Mid using Nike’s Flyleather. Wang infused the pairs with colorful designed filled with Chinese backgrounds and symbols, as well as images portraying the relationship between humans and the earth.

The collaborations didn’t stop there, and in 2020 Wang and Nike worked together for another pair that challenges the idea that shoes and art are not environmentally friendly. This time the collection used similar designs printed on an Air Max 90.



Disclaimer: This content was created by The Varsity’s Content Lab. The Varsity’s editorial department was not involved.