From ostracized subculture to Olympic sport, skateboarding has come a long way over the past 70 years. A new exhibition at London’s Design Museum shines a spotlight on the history of skateboard designs going all the way back to the beginning.
“This exhibition is centered around a single question: how did the skateboard get to be the way it is?”, said Jonathan Olivares, a curator for the show. Organized by decade, each section showcases the designs, materials, figures, and events who defined each period within the history of the sport. Starting in the 1950s, the show examines how surfers would attach roller skate wheels to wooden crates as a way to practice their tricks when there were no waves.
By the ’70s, skateboarding entered the wider cultural conversation in places like Los Angeles and New York City and by the ’90s, would become cemented as a true sphere of influence through now iconic labels, such as Supreme, Stüssy, Toy Machine, and World Industries, amongst others.
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“The skateboard story has many layers: a history impacted by societal, technological, and geographical shifts,” wrote the show’s co-curator, Tory Turk. “The skateboard, an extension to the skateboarder, takes on a special power, one that can change lives, cities, cultures and push boundaries. From Californian hills to British car parks, today the skateboard’s presence is ingrained in our everyday. This exhibition takes you on a journey through time, design and space — positioning the skateboard as a truly unique object.”
Highlights of the exhibition include over 100 rare objects, including Tony Hawk‘s first professional skateboard model, early homemade decks from the 1950s, Palace‘s Long Live Southbank deck from 2017, as well as magazines, VHS tapes, and ephemera that added to the mythology surrounding the sport.
Complementing the exhibition is a new fully-skateable mini ramp at the Design Museum which is open to the public, along with a book chronicling the show, which is published by Phaidon. SKATEBOARD is on view until June 2, 2024.
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