NEW YORK — An empty boutique retail space in the heart of SoHo was transformed almost overnight into an NBA mecca featuring paintings and jewelry to quilts and embroideries — all to commemorate the NBA’s 75th anniversary.
In celebration of the NBA’s 75 years, Bleacher Report commissioned a lineup of talented, diverse artists from a range of disciplines to create original works of art inspired by the league. Each of the five artists created original works along with a set of artist editions (each limited to 75) and apparel inspired by their artworks.
Visual artist Sue Tsai curated the collection. Her work is a crossover of art, fashion and pop culture known to bring a bold yet feminine aesthetic in the world of basketball. She creates multimedia collectible art through her pop-surrealistic style.
“I really wanted to find a diverse group of artists that would showcase not only different mediums but different perspectives on basketball,” Tsai said. “It was important to bring on artists that had their own personal relationships with NBA history so that it would be authentically reflected in the art.”
The other artists include:
- Frank Miller: one of the most influential and awarded creators in the entertainment field today. Miller is known for his intense, hard-boiled storytelling and gritty noir aesthetic across comics, novels and films, including Daredevil, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300.
- Hank Willis Thomas: a widely exhibited conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. He is known for creating overlaps of sports, history, and contemporary art through his tapestries made of athletic jerseys.
- Greg Yuna: a prominent luxury jeweler and New York City fixture, who is based in Manhattan’s Diamond District and counts top celebrities in sports, music and film among his clientele. Yuna’s creativity and unique aesthetic drives the design direction of the Greg Yuna brand’s contemporary collections of precious jewelry, apparel, accessories and artwork.
- Bandulu: a label founded by artist Pat Peltier, known for transforming vintage clothing into unique, one of a kind garments through custom embroidery, including hand-sewn paint splatters – a trademark of his style.
Each artist has a unique connection to basketball that helped influence their work for this collection.
“Basketball has always been a gateway for artistic expression and mental fitness for me, from an early age,” Peltier said. “From being inspired by the culture of the sport my whole life to going on to play collegiate basketball at Mass Art in Boston, I have continuously drawn reference points and parallels to how art and basketball intertwine through Bandulu.”
“I have been a basketball fan since I was a teenager,” Miller said. “Watching the Lakers playing the Celtics was like watching super heroes in action. Those guys are too good to be true. But they are true.”
For the original works, Tsai created four paintings celebrating the Bulls, Knicks, Lakers and Nets. Each commemorated the city’s history such as her favorite painting of the Knicks logo, surrounded by colorful Madison Square Garden-inspired growth in a city of concrete.
“Inspired by the ‘concrete jungle,’ I turned the iconic Knicks’ secondary basketball logo into my signature flower bomb. The Rafflesia jungle flower bomb represents the power and explosiveness of the game while paying a small homage to the 88-89 Knicks
“Bomb Squad,” Tsai said. “At the root is a stem mimicking a NY street sign and leaves sprouting the 7th ave and 33rd street intersection of Madison Square Garden. A concrete block NY shows the strength of the city while wall stickers pay homage to the 75 years of the NBA. A young fan waters the Knicks flower helping it to blossom and reminds us that growth has no off-season.”
Other artists’ works:
- Miller: three pencil and ink illustrations reimagining the Celtics, Lakers, Raptors logos.
- Willis Thomas: a large-scale quilted NBA logo from a collection of team jerseys
- Yuna: three pendants encrusted with precious gems of the Knicks, Lakers and 75th anniversary NBA logos, the latter of which is a nod to the “Diamond Anniversary” of the NBA. The three pendants feature over 1,200 precious gems, including over 500 diamonds.
- Bandulu: three hand-embroidered tapestries honoring the 76ers, Celtics and Heat.
Each artists’ editions:
- Miller: Giclee prints, numbered and hand signed, edition of 75 for each the Celtics, Lakers, Raptors.
- Willis Thomas: 50″ x 70″ printed blanket of quilt, edition of 75.
- Tsai: Giclee prints, numbered and hand signed, edition of 75 for each the Bulls, Knicks, Lakers.
- Yuna: Archive pigment print on aluminum, edition of 75 with signed Certificate of Authenticity for the Lakers.
- Bandulu: Embroidered patch, edition of 75.
Tsai said what she liked most about working with the other artists was how incredibly different everyone’s individual perspective of the NBA and how that was reflected in what they created.
“Hank Willis Thomas is such an important conceptual artist to the culture and his 1 of 1 quilt goes far beyond just putting together player jerseys to make the NBA logo. Frank Miller who is an iconic comic artist sees the players as superheroes and was able to render the team logos in this way. To visualize NBA teams and their history through the eyes of all these different artists from diverse backgrounds really shows us how the league has transcended beyond just the game,” Tsai said.
In addition, all of the artists works are available as apparel, which is a capsule collection of casual wear, including long and short sleeve t-shirts, hooded and crewneck sweatshirts, embroidered bomber jackets and a pair of sweatpants.