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Satan Shoes maker responds to Nike lawsuit – it’s all just “conceptual art”

By | Published on Tuesday 6 April 2021

Satan Shoes

The company that partnered with Lil Nas X on his Satan Shoes has said that it is surprised that Nike is seeking to block the sale of the trainers, insisting that they are a work of conceptual art.

The limited edition shoes are modified Nike Air Max 97s, with the air sole filled with red ink and – creator MSCHF claims – one drop of human blood. Lil Nas X unveiled the trainers late last month, alongside his new single ‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ and its accompanying video, which sees him giving Satan a lapdance.

Both the video and the shoes have garnered some useful controversy for Lil Nas X and his marketing team. Though the controversy around the Satan Shoes also resulted in legal action from Nike, which said that “MSCHF and its unauthorised Satan Shoes are likely to cause confusion and dilution and create an erroneous association between MSCHF’s products and Nike”.

Nike’s lawyers noted that, as a result of the Satan Shoes, their client had been accused of promoting Satanism, resulting in calls for a boycott of the brand at large.

The sportswear company asked the court for an injunction banning any sale or distribution of the Satan Shoes. The judge overseeing the case last week indicated he is likely to issue such an injunction, although that might not affect the 666 shoes that have already been sold.

Responding to the legal action, MSCHF issued a statement on its website on Thursday. “MSCHF is a conceptual art collective known for interventions that engage fashion, art, tech, and capitalism in various, often unexpected, mediums”, it writes. “We believe it is better to make art that participates directly in its subject matter; it is stronger to do a thing, than to talk about a thing. MSCHF makes artworks that live directly in the systems they critique, instead of hiding inside white-walled galleries”.

“There is no better way to start a conversation about consumer culture than by participating in consumer culture”, it reckons. “We choose a specific medium to engage with a specific subject matter: we will make shoes, stream video, publish books, make paintings and sculpture, build apps or web services – everything is in service to the concept. MSCHF is fully context chameleonic”.

Yeah, whatever you say. It then notes that the Satan Shoes are actually a sequel to some Jesus Shoes that MSCHF previously put on sale in 2019. “As a manifested speculative artwork Jesus Shoes conflates celebrity collab culture and brand worship with religious worship into a limited edition line of art objects”.

“Last week’s release of the Satan Shoes, in collaboration with Lil Nas X, was no different”, the statement goes on. “Satan Shoes started a conversation, while also living natively in its space. It is art created for people to observe, speculate on, purchase, and own”.

“Heresy only exists in relation to doctrine: who is Nike to censor one but not the other? Satan is as much part of the art historical canon as Jesus, from Renaissance Hellmouths to Milton. Satan exists as the challenger to the ultimate authority. We were delighted to work with Lil Nas X on Satan Shoes and continue this dialogue”.

Again stressing that the company is not affiliated with Nike in any way, MSCHF’s statement continues: “We were honestly surprised by the action Nike has taken, and immediately after Nike’s counsel sent us notice we reached out but received no response”.

“MSCHF strongly believes in the freedom of expression, and nothing is more important than our ability, and the ability of other artists like us, to continue with our work over the coming years. We look forward to working with Nike and the court to resolve this case in the most expeditious manner”.

The legal action – while possibly not affecting the 666 Satan Shoes already sold – has resulted in plans by Lil Nas X to giveaway a pair via Twitter being put on hold. Meanwhile, creators everywhere who like messing with Nike shoes in their pursuit of art will watch with interest the outcome of these legal arguments.