Showcasing the many incredible and innovative new footwear designs that promise to transform the field.
The American Federation of Arts is pleased to announce Future Now: Virtual Sneakers to Cutting-Edge Kicks. Building on the highly successful collaboration for the show Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture (2015–2017), the Bata Shoe Museum and the American Federation of Arts are collaborating again on a new groundbreaking exhibition that explores the intersection between design innovation and technological advancements in footwear.
Future Now features around sixty futuristic designs from the Bata Shoe Museum’s holdings as well as loans from prominent institutions, collectors, designers, and inventors. It explores how cutting-edge technologies, unexpected materials, and new ideas are transforming footwear today. The exhibition includes digitally designed and 3D-printed shoes, sneakers made from mushroom leather and reclaimed ocean plastics, and footwear created for the metaverse.
In the nineteenth century, shoemaking in the West was transformed from an artisanal craft into an industry driven by the invention of new methods and materials. The mass production of footwear made a variety of shoes accessible and affordable, and footwear consumption began to rise. However, industrialization also introduced new limitations: feet suddenly had to fit into predetermined sizes, and consumer choice was limited to the styles and colors selected by manufacturers. Industrialization led to ever-increasing levels of exploitation and waste as production and consumption grew. Today, many shoe designers and companies are grappling with this history. And while innovation remains at the forefront of the industry, the goals have begun to shift.
The footwear included in the exhibition is designed to address industrial-age problems and capitalize on postindustrial possibilities. The project features designers and brands including Salehe Bembury, Steven Smith, RTFKT, Mr. Bailey, Zaha Hadid, Nike ISPA, Safa Şahin, EKTO VR, Saysh, Benoit Méléard, SCRY, and many more.
Venue slots available for partnership. For booking information, contact Ilaria Conti, Curator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The publication developed for the original presentation of Future Now at the Bata Shoe Museum (May 2022–October 2023) and published by Rizzoli Electa explores todayʼs most futuristic footwear, including in the virtual world, where adherence to characteristics like comfort and gravity are no longer part of the equation. While the introduction offers an overview of outstanding footwear innovations from the past, in-depth interviews conducted by the curator with contemporary designers— including Allyson Felix, Salehe Bembury, Mr. Bailey, the team at RTFKT, Steven Smith, Rem D Koolhaas, Alexander Taylor—dive deep into the creative process, influences, and the future of shoe design.
Elizabeth Semmelhack is Director and Senior Curator at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada. Semmelhack applies her cultural art history background to the mission of the museum by exploring the multiple roles and meanings of footwear through innovative and engaging exhibitions and publications. Most recently, she has curated The Great Divide: Footwear and the Age of Enlightenment (2021). Her recent publications include The World at Your Feet: The Bata Shoe Museum Collection (Rizzoli Electa, 2020), Collab: Sneakers x Culture (Rizzoli Electa, 2019), Dior by Roger Vivier (Rizzoli, 2018), Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture (Rizzoli Electa, 2015), and Standing Tall: The Curious History of Men in Heels (Bata Shoe Museum, 2015).
The exhibition is co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum.