The long-running collaboration between Nike and Tom Sachs may be threatened by recent allegations of abusive workplace practices lodged against the contemporary artist.
In February, a personal assistant listing for an unnamed “high profile art world family” went viral after it was published by blogger Emily Colucci. The listing, which has since been deleted, described the family’s ideal candidate as someone who “must be dedicated to a simple goal: make life easier for the couple in every way possible.”
The lengthy and detailed job description spanned travel planning, gardening, childcare and various other personal duties such as shopping at “high end stores” and managing “dog systems,” which included “potty breaks, food, day care, dog walkers, vet appts,” for an annual salary of $65,000 to $95,000.
Former employees of Sachs quickly suggested the artist and his wife Sarah Hoover, a former director at Gagosian gallery, were the art world family in question. Earlier this week, Curbed reported on Sachs’ behavior at his Manhattan studio, where the artist allegedly berated employees, called them demeaning names and occasionally threw items at workers when upset.
Sachs additionally once attended a Zoom call with female Nike employees dressed only in his underwear, according to Curbed.
“We are deeply concerned by the very serious allegations,” said Nike, which has collaborated with Sachs for the past 11 years, in an emailed statement. “We are in contact with Tom and his studio, seeking to better understand the situation and how these issues are being addressed.”
Sachs, who has denied the allegations, did not respond to requests for comment.
New revelations regarding a 2017 collaboration
Since 2011, Nike has released four collaborations with the artist. A 2017 sneaker created by Sachs, the NikeCraft Mars Yard 2.0, allegedly included the phrase “work like a slave” written inside the shoebox, prompting Nike to notify stores that the boxes required alterations before being released, as first reported by Complex.
The complete phrase read: “Work like a slave, order like a king, create like a god,” referring to a quote from sculptor Constantin Brancusi. Sachs has previously referenced Brancusi in his artwork and claims to have first encountered the sculptor’s work while studying at Bennington College, according to his website.
Nike covered the quote on some boxes with duct tape, while the phrase remained visible on various counterfeit copies of the sneaker, according to Complex. The original quote is visible in some videos unboxing the shoes, while others show tape placed over the phrase’s original location.
Sachs has additionally collaborated with other companies in the past, such as online retailer SSENSE. The clothing company sells a number of items by Sachs, including a $565 fanny pack displaying the artist’s “ten bullets” logo, which references his ten studio rules.
These rules were outlined in a 2010 video described as “required viewing for all employee and studio visitors.” The principles include stating “I understand” or “I don’t understand” to commands and paying a small fee to amend for “certain types of oversight, weakness and lack of responsibility,” such as being late or not having a pen and notebook on hand, with the fine doubling each time an offense is incurred.
The artist has also collaborated with Avant Arte, a digital platform which sells exclusive editions of artwork, and released a print with the company in 2022. SSENSE and Avant Arte did not respond to requests for comment regarding their partnerships with Sachs.