Sotheby’s Launches a Line of Old Masters-Inspired Streetwear as Part of Its Endless Quest to Get Young People to Buy Old Art

The project is a collaboration with the street style brand Highsnobiety.

Ginevra Cantolofi’s A Sea-Nymph alongside the new streetwear collaboration between Sotheby's and Highsnobeity. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Of all the mythical beings depicted in Old Master paintings, the hype beast wasn’t one of them. But old school is meeting the Flemish and Dutch schools in a new collection of limited-edition streetwear produced by Sotheby’s and the style brand Highsnobiety. 

The collection of shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies—which will be released on Highsnobiety’s website on January 20—are emblazoned with images of art included in Sotheby’s upcoming January Old Masters auctions. The clothes, priced between €65 ($72) for t-shirts, €105 ($117) for crewneck sweatshirts, and €125 ($139) for hoodies, feature Italian, Dutch and Flemish works, from a 16th-century depiction skeleton astride a coffin to the serene mythical beauty of Ginevra Cantofoli’s A Sea-Nymph. The designs will also be available for purchase at a pop-up store at Selfridges in London.

Prague School, An Imaginary Landscape with Allegories of Abundance and Charity (circa 1600). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Prague School, An Imaginary Landscape with Allegories of Abundance and Charity (circa 1600). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

At first glance, the hip brand and august auction house are strange bedfellows. Highsnobiety focuses largely on street art and skater culture—if they cover Sotheby’s, it’s most likely to report on a sale of Supreme skateboards.

But Old Masters might be having a larger fashion moment—at least, the auction houses hope so. In 2018, Gucci released an Old Master-inspired collection, leading Christie’s to declare that Old Masters were “back in fashion.”

Meanwhile, this isn’t the first time Sotheby’s has taken a novel approach to marketing the field. In late 2018, the auction house partnered with Victoria Beckham on “The Female Triumphant,” a sale of female master painters, and even displayed a selection of paintings in Beckham’s Dover Street store. It has also teamed up with Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti to promote a presentation of work by an Old Master with the same name.  

Dutch School, Bacchus And Ceres (a pair) (18th century). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Dutch School, Bacchus And Ceres (a pair) (18th century). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

David Fischer, Highsnobiety’s CEO, said the partnership hopes to draw new kinds of collectors to Sotheby’s— those who “never dreamed of owning this art.” At the same time, he also enjoys “surprising our audience with partnerships and collaborations that they would not expect every day.” 

David Pollack, Sotheby’s senior vice president and specialist for Old Master paintings, said the collection is “an opportunity to showcase Old Master paintings as remarkably modern, graphic works of art that can be enjoyed outside their mythological or historical context.”

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