The teenager who paid nearly S$1.1 million for a collection of Supreme skate decks
Seventeen-year-old Carson Guo successfully bid for the world's only complete collection of 248 decks produced by the iconic street wear brand over 20 years.
Carson Guo’s first art buy was a flower print by Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami. He then went on to collect accessories from American skateboarding and fashion brand Supreme and American artist Kaws (real name: Brian Donnelly).
In January, at the age of 17, Guo became the owner of the world’s only complete collection of Supreme Skate decks in private hands, paying a cool US$800,000 (S$1.09 million) at a Sotheby’s auction – the highest ever for a Supreme item – for the 248 decks produced by the brand from 1998 to 2018.
The seller was Los Angeles collector Ryan Fuller, who had painstakingly assembled the decks over 13 years. The entire collection was on display at Sotheby’s New York galleries, attracting fans of Supreme, streetwear, skateboard culture and contemporary art and design.
In an email interview with CNA Luxury, Guo, who is a skateboarding enthusiast, said, “I love how Supreme was just a skateboard brand and has now become the top street brand in the world. I love the advanced and free-minded culture behind it, and more importantly, the rarity of its products especially its collaborations with many other respected brands.”
Given his keen interest in street art and artist collaborations with high fashion names, Guo was immediately informed when a friend saw the Sotheby’s auction coming up. “Many of the decks have artwork by iconic artists such as Kaws and (American contemporary visual artist) George Condo with some decks signed by the artists. I consider them to be pieces of art.”
Guo comes from a family of art collectors. Most notably, his father is Guo Qingxiang, the art curator for Dalian Wanda Group, whose chairman Wang Jianlin is China’s richest man. The senior Guo was instrumental in securing significant Western artworks at eye-watering prices for his boss, such as Monet’s Bassin aux Nympheas, Les Rosiers, for US$20 million, as well as Picasso’s Claude et Paloma for US$28 million.
He is also known for commissioning the world’s most expensive grand piano, called the Sound of Harmony, a Steinway & Sons art case piano decorated with inlays of 40 different kinds of wood and featuring an inlaid image of a traditional ink-wash painting “Peacock” by renowned Chinese artist Shi Qi. The €1.2-million (S$1.82 million) piano took four years to build and was used during the Expo 2010 in Shanghai.
“I love how Supreme was just a skateboard brand and has now become the top street brand in the world. I love the advanced and free-minded culture behind it, and more importantly, the rarity of its products especially its collaborations with many other respected brands.” – Carson Guo
Guo, who is based in Vancouver, says that both he and his father like “real arts that are creative with a purpose”. He said, “I discuss every purchase with my dad. I do a lot of research before every piece to make sure that I know what I’m really buying.”
He also counts his older sister, who has a degree in art history from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, as his mentor in art collecting.
Noah Wunsch, Sotheby’s global head of e-commerce, observes that there is a continuous secondary market growth for streetwear brands, whether it is Supreme or an Adidas collaboration with NIGO, as well as blue chip artists whose work may be based in street art, such as Kaws and Murakami.
He added, “These works are relevant to the present time and speak to clients globally. What is most interesting is that we aren’t seeing any one particular demographic dominate the space as collectors – both young and older clients are bidding, buying and collecting.”
This is not the first time that Sotheby’s has auctioned skateboards. Two lots of Supreme decks including collaboration sets with George Condo and Damien Hirst were included in its Contemporary Art auction in June 2013. It also sold a set of eight Kaws collaboration decks in its Curated: Turn It Up auction in June 2018 in Hong Kong, where two of those decks were Supreme collaborations that were part of the set bought by Guo.
These two sets form part of the collection that Guo got his hands on.
Wunsch declined to comment on the specific number of bidders for the latest Supreme auction. He said: “We had a great deal of interest from an array of pre-existing and new clients on the lot, which, ultimately, received multiple bids.”
Guo plans to display his prized collection in a new creative shop to be opened in Vancouver in 2020. He explained, “We want to [create] an open gallery with all the limited items including this skateboard set. The set will be displayed on the wall and is 100 per cent open to public.”
“These works are relevant to the present time and speak to clients globally. What is most interesting is that we aren’t seeing any one particular demographic dominate the space as collectors – both young and older clients are bidding, buying and collecting.” – Noah Wunsch
He intends to continue collecting Supreme’s upcoming skateboard designs. “I think art shouldn’t be seeing based on specific shapes or forms. What matters most is the art’s soul and purpose. To me, whether it is paintings or sculptures, good art is good art.”