A History of Supreme's Artist Collaborations
From the brand's origins in '94 to the present day, this is a history of Supreme's artist collaborations, including Rammellzee, KAWS and more.
Image via Complex Original
Since its humble beginnings, Supreme has collaborated with artists big and small. The brand’s art collaborations spotlight both underground graffiti legends like JA One and popular contemporary artists including Takashi Murakami. Today, old Supreme skateboard decks made by artists such as Damien Hirst are treated like canvasses and fetch thousands of dollars at art auctions. These collaborations have included everything from simple reproductions of famous photographs to complete re-designs of the brand’s famous box logo, which was of course inspired by the work of Barbara Kruger.
Although every collaboration is different, all of the artists Supreme has worked with over the years have maintained a high level of subcultural coolness that the brand is known for. Anyone who dives into the history of Supreme’s art collaborations will come across an art gallery like no other—one filled with the work of revered contemporary artists, graffiti bombers, ‘90s skateboard graphic designers, Lower East Side photographers, and more. From the brand's origins in 1994 to the present day, this is a history of Supreme's artist collaborations.
Anyone who visits Supreme's website will see a weird looking car on the homepage's background. That's one piece from a series of race car sculptures made by the late graffiti artist Rammellzee. He was down with Supreme since the brand first opened its New York City store in 1994–he was even at the Supreme’s Los Angeles opening party in 2004. From Far Rockaway, Queens, Rammellzee was well known for his elaborate sculptures, costumes, masks, and an unique style of graffiti which he dubbed “Gothic Futurism.” For years, he produced other worldly art at the “Battle Station,” the nickname for his studio in Tribeca, Manhattan. Backpacks and other hand painted items that he made for his first Supreme collaboration in 2004 are considered some of the rarest items the brand’s ever released—only a handful of products were made. For Supreme’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection, the brand revisited its work with Rammellzee by releasing T-shirts, hoodies, and Gore-Tex anoraks covered with his iconic artwork.
The late Dondi White is known as one of the greatest graffiti writers of all time. With an eye for both lettering and fine art, Dondi became one of the first New York graffiti writers to have his work acknowledged by art galleries in the Lower East Side during the ‘80s. The artwork used in his Supreme collaboration focused on his abstract characters, as opposed to his large, masterpiece burners. Dondi's artistic virtuoso was well exhibited in this collaboration of T-shirts. His work also appeared in Malcolm McLaren's Supreme collaboration and Dondi even painted a mural for the Supreme store when it opened in 1994.
The most iconic images of the birth of hip-hop in New York City have been captured by Martha Cooper’s lens. We're talking about B-boys, graffiti writers, and the citizens of the city that inspired Supreme's aesthetic and attitude. Cooper is mostly known for Subway Art, a book of graffiti photographs that she made with Henry Chalfant. Today, that book is still revered as a graffiti bible. Her Supreme collaboration in 2004 consisted of raglan long sleeve shirts with large screenprinted images of her pioneering street photography. Cooper is still photographing graffiti today.
When: 2005 and 2013
Peter Saville is one of the most revered British graphic designers, so it’s not surprising that Supreme would tap into Saville’s work for multiple collaborations. Long before Supreme, Saville collaborated with designers such as Yohji Yamamoto, John Galliano at Dior, and Jun Takahashi of Undercover. Although Saville is mostly known for his AW03 collection with Raf Simons, pieces from his ‘Power, Corruption, Lies’ collection with Supreme in Spring 2013 have grown to become certified grails. Previously, Supreme collaborated with Savile in 2005 for a small run of T-shirts, which highlighted Saville’s early work designing record sleeves for bands like Joy Division and New Order.
When: 2005, 2015, and 2017
Larry Clark is mostly known for his cult classic film Kids, whose cast members were picked from the very litter of skate kids that hung out in front of Supreme’s Lafayette St. store. The controversial film director and photographer has collaborated with Supreme on a number of occasions. He shot an X-rated calendar for Supreme in 2005 and also made a T-shirt for Supreme which featured a photo from Clark’s 1971 book Tulsa–a collection of gritty photos from his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma which foreshadowed the visceral documentation of troubled youth that Kids was later known for. In 2015, Supreme released a collaboration with Larry Clark to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kids, which featured film stills from the movie. In 2017, the brand released another one-off shirt with Clark that featured more of Clark’s nude photography. For the brand’s 25th anniversary, Clark modeled Supreme’s Swarovski box logo T-shirt.
Keo TC5 is another respected New York City graffiti artist who is mostly known as the artist who made MF Doom's legendary mask and album covers such as Operation Doomsday. He didn't do any Doom-related work for Supreme, but he did design the artwork for Supreme's Loosies, Rosary, and Jail "Cartoon Hands" pieces. We wouldn't mind seeing a Doom photo tee, though.
In a James Jebbia interview published inside the Supreme Rizzoli book, Jebbia said he was inspired to make Supreme’s first photo T-shirts after seeing similar T-shirts being worn in Harlem and the Bronx. After seeing some photos of Raekwon by the renowned photographer Kenneth Cappelo, Jebbia tapped into Cappelo’s work and the rest is history. You can thank Cappello for some of Supreme's most notable photo series T-shirts. He's the man responsible for snapping Raekwon, Mike Tyson, and the infamous Dipset T-shirt for Supreme. But Cappello's work with Supreme doesn't stop there, he's also been the photographer behind many of Supreme's editorials which only pop-up in obscure Japanese magazines. Recently, Cappello shot the cover for Billie Eilish’s Grammy award winning album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Don't get it twisted; Supreme is firmly rooted in skateboarding, especially the scene that existed when the brand started in 1994. The brand's collection with photographer Bill Thomas pays homage to the skate culture depicted in movies like Kids. Similar to other collaborations with photographers, the collection featured T-shirts and tank tops blown up with Thomas’ photos of ‘90s New York City skaters.
Comic strips are what inspired pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, and his 2006 collection with Supreme was a tribute to his artistic style. This was also the era where big and bold prints ruled streetwear. Supreme's longsleeve T-shirts with Lichtenstein were covered top-to-bottom with sobbing women whose sorrow was contrasted with blond hair and red lipstick that popped from the graphics.
When: ‘90s and 2006
In 1994, Ari Marcopoulos started hanging around downtown New York City, and he documented the skaters who were a part of the scene that Supreme sprung from. Some of the first Supreme T-shirts to feature photos predominantly featured Marcopoulos’ work, such as a T-shirt featuring shots of Jean-Michel Basquiat. In 2006, Supreme centered a collaboration on Marcopoulos that was specifically focused on his photos of New York City skateboarders in ‘90s New York .
Charlie Ahearn captured an integral part of New York City before it became gentrified and filled with out-of-towners. He is well recognized as being the creator of the seminal 1983 hip-hop movie, Wild Style. His collection for Supreme chronicled the earliest era of hip-hop in NYC, and his gritty late-'70s and early-'80s images take things back to before Times Square was cleaned up.
Guess who's back in the motherfucking house? Joe Cool, the man behind the artwork on Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle album, collaborated with Supreme to bring new life to the tales of the seediest dogs. Even if you don't sip on gin and juice, Cool's brick wall take on the Box Logo and the "Dogs Playing Poker" painting is enough for streetwear die-hards to cave into his designs.
Thick women, Mr. Natural, and Fritz the Cat are three things that R. Crumb was known for. But he was also an important figure in the underground comics scene. His alternative viewpoint was shown in his collaboration with Supreme, which brought a new audience to drawings that highlight paranoia and an overall lack of faith in the human condition.
The Gonz has been down with Supreme since back in the day–he used to write postcards to Harold Hunter at the shop addressed "Supream." He’s also designed sculptures and interior art for many of Supreme’s brick and mortar stores. So naturally, there are many Supreme x Gonz collabs. One of the standouts is this “Supream”varsity jacket from Fall/Winter 2017.
This low key Supreme collaboration is a favorite for many graffiti enthusiasts. In 2008, Supreme released T-shirts and hoodies with the prolific New York City graffiti bomber JA One. For those who don’t know about JA, just step outside because he’s been consistently tagging the streets of New York for nearly three decades. The Upper West Side graffiti bomber was infamously profiled by Rolling Stone magazine in 1995 and has been deified ever since. JA surprisingly appeared in one of the brand’s editorials and even conducted one of his only interviews with the brand.
The late Shawn Morteson was an eclectic photographer from Los Angeles who was equally known for photographing magazine covers with Biggie Smalls and documenting the AIDS crisis in South Africa. A year before his unfortunate passing, Supreme collaborated with Morteson for a series of baseball shirts. The photos featured images Morteson took of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, which coincidentally happened in 1994.
Ralph Bakshi's collaboration with Supreme featured stills from his 1975 film Coonskin, a controversial take on Blaxploitation cinema of the time, that swapped out real people for animals. The imagery from the collaboration is just as you'd expect and definitely embodies every meaning of the phrase "Super Fly."
When: 2001, 2008, and 2011
KAWS has been working with Supreme ever since they released a series of three skateboard decks in 2001 featuring the graffiti artist’s take on the Michelin Man. KAWS’ defunct clothing brand, OriginalFake, collaborated with Supreme twice. Their first collaboration featured a Kate Moss shirt that referenced KAWS’ iconic ad-busting street art which conquered bus stations and phone booths throughout New York City the ‘90s. Another collab threw it back to KAWS' roots as a graffiti writer, with a T-shirt featuring KAWS’ stylized take on the brand’s name.
When: 2008, 2010
Sean Cliver is a revered skateboard graphic designer whose work was seen on skateboard decks in the '90s by Powell Peralta, World Industries, 101, Birdhouse and many others. Few are able to package the fucked up aspects of society into fun-looking cartoons like Cliver can. His T-shirts for Supreme featured artwork of kids with pig heads and butcher knives, Hitler, the KKK, Blaxploitation characters, and even Jesus, all depicted as innocent children.
Pedro Bell is one of the few artists who actually redesigned the Supreme logo. Bell, who has worked with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, brought a '70s flare to the brand's logo. The "Blockbuster" graphic brought a touch of electricity and energy, which surely helped funk things up.
Although his intentions may be debatable, if it weren't for Malcolm McLaren, punk culture would not have thrived as much as it did. He and Vivienne Westwood are largely responsible for giving a definable look and aesthetic to the youth culture that was buzzing in England during the 1970s. Supreme broke out all stops with this collaboration and released sweatshirts, T-shirts, and Vans with printed insoles.
Damien Hirst doesn't need the check that comes with a Supreme collaboration. Even a decade after he dropped this collab, he’s still considered to be one of the richest living artists. Sets of skate decks he designed for Supreme resell for as much as $10,000. The back of Hirst’s famous dotted box logo T-shirt reads “Life’s a Bitch, then you die,” which is a reference to the famous Nas lyric and the art featured inside the box logo. The docile colorful dots seen within the logo are supposed to represent pills and were directly pulled from Hirst’s “Controlled Substances” and “Pharmaceutical” paintings.
Did Cost really fuck Madonna? He won't say, but his collection with Supreme made his question-provoking statement even more notorious. Throughout the ‘90s, COST and REVS conquered New York City with wheat paste posters and paint roller tags. They were two of the first graffiti artists to pioneer these methods of getting up. The brand’s collaboration with COST consisted of four T-shirts, showcasing COST’s posters and his ill handstyle. Although COST did make a brief comeback in the 2010s he rarely sells his art and remains in the shadows. This makes this Supreme collaboration one of the only times he’s ever sold his work to the public.
Shaniqwa Jarvis is a New York City based photographer who has worked with brands like Fear of God, Uniqlo, MadeMe, Nike and more. However, she is known among Supreme die hards as the photographer behind the Shane MacGowan, Ghostface Killah, and Lee "Scratch" Perry T-shirts for Supreme.
Futura was making moves in the New York City streetwear game years before Supreme even opened its doors. If you don’t know, do your research on the pioneering streetwear brands that the deified New York City graffiti writer launched such as Not From Concentrate or Project Dragon. Supreme's clothing can fetch high resale prices, and Futura's collaboration with the brand encapsulated this idea perfectly. The clothes read, "Fuck You Pay Me." Now, we don't think the graffiti artist was talking about re-sellers, but his hoodies, hats, and beanies fit in perfectly with that sentiment. If you ever visit Supreme’s new Manhattan store at 190 Bowery, make sure you get a good look at the mural Futura painted there.
In what it lacked in size, David Lynch's work with Supreme made up for with its intent. The collection featured an still image from Lynch's film Blue Velvet as well as an original lithograph drawing from the master of strange, twisted cinema.
Harmony Korine is well known for movies like Spring Breakers, but some may be surprised to learn that he started his film career by writing the screenplay for Kids. Korine designed one T-shirt and several decks for Supreme. The shirt featured a photograph of Macaulay Culkin sitting on a couch, arms folded, next to two ballerinas. All the photos from this collaboration were taken from Korine’s 1998 photo book, The Bad Son. The pictures were all taken during the filming of Sonic Youth's music video for “Sunday.”
When: 2012, 2015, and 2020
An influential pioneer in the world of lo-fi rock music, the late Daniel Johnston is another artist who Supreme has frequently collaborated with. Aside from music, Johnston was also well known for his otherworldly drawings. Supreme began collaborating with the artist in 2012 for sketch-like artwork on three different T-shirts. The T-shirts all have imagery based around superheroes and the internal battles that we all wage. The brand collaborated with Johnston again in 2015 and released a button-up shirt with his art for Spring 2020.
Jean-Michel Basquiat's name is synonymous with underground art and the fanaticism that the genre creates. For this collaboration with Supreme, the collection is sprawling and goes beyond just T-shirts. Basquiat's artwork was also placed across the chest of button-up shirts and along the back of an M-65 jacket that features Basquiat’s drawing of Cassius Clay. If you were looking for something a little more reserved, there was a photo hoodie, too.
Fans of the punk rock band Black Flag are already well versed in Raymond Pettibon’s work. The California artist is famously known for designing Black Flag’s iconic bar logo and many of their album covers. Pettibon is also well known for designing the album cover for Sonic Youth’s Goo. Five years after this Supreme collaboration, Pettibon went on to work on some graphics with Kim Jones for Dior.
The late Dash Snow was a legendary New York City artist who became well recognized for his newspaper collages and Poloroid photographs. Alongside artists such as Dan Colen and Ryan McGinley, Snow defined an era within downtown New York’s art scene. Outside of having his works exhibited in the Whitney Biennial, Snow was also known as Sace—a prolific graffiti writer who was a member of the IRAK graffiti crew. This T-shirt and skate deck set, which arrived nearly seven years after Snow’s untimely death, focused on Snow’s collection of 20 tabloid newspaper cut-outs of Saddam Hussein. This specific work was slightly controversial because each newspaper was decorated with the artist’s own semen. This entire collection of newspapers sold for $240,000 in 2014.
Blade was infamously dubbed the “King of Graffiti” by the end of the 1970s for painting nearly 5,000 whole New York City subway cars. The Bronx born subway graffiti writer is still considered to be a graffiti pioneer today. When Supreme hit up Blade for a collaboration in 2016, they released T-shirts, long sleeves, pins, hoodies, and a camp cap. The standout piece from this collaboration was a hoodie featuring a reworked graphic of one of Blade’s most iconic works of vandalism, a whole car featuring his name on a sky blue background with “swinging” letters.
As the cofounder and art director of the skateboard brand Alien Workshop, Mike Hill is known for making some of the most iconic and surreal graphics within skateboarding. For his Supreme collaboration, the brand asked Hill to make some of his iconic papier-mâché dioramas. This collaboration tipped its hat to one of the first skateboard brands to ever push the boundaries of graphic design.
Wilfred Limonious is a Jamaician artist who is known as the father of dancehall art. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Limonious drew album covers and other art for a number of Jamaican record labels. His Supreme collaboration focused on the artwork he made for labels such as Power House.
Along with Dash Snow, Supreme featured another member of the IRAK graffiti crew for a collaboration with Comme des Garcons SHIRT. Kunle Martins, who is better known as the graffiti tagger Earsnot, created the “Justice For All” graffiti printed on various pieces in this collection. According to an interview with Complex, the graphics that decorated these pieces were actually sourced from a blackbook Earsnot gave to Supreme.
The late Mike Kelley was a revered American artist whose most iconic work includes a series of sculptures crafted out of repurposed thrift store toys, blankets, and worn stuffed animals. One of Kelley’s most recognizable pieces of work is his art for the cover of Sonic Youth’s 1992 album, Dirty. That cover art, images of Kelley’s iconic stuffed animal sculptures. and vandalized textbook doodles from Kelley’s Reconstructed History series, were printed on various pieces of apparel for this collaboration.
Andres Serrano easily goes down as one of the most controversial artists Supreme has ever collaborated with. The brand’s collection with Serrano zeroed in on what he’s known for, which is artwork made out of his own bodily fluids. When works like Piss Christ, which featured an image of a Jesus Christ figurine submerged in a tank of urine, were first exhibited to the public, they were widely condemned as obscene and disrespectful. But other groups, like the metal band Metallica, praised Serrano’s artwork and predominantly featured it on their album covers in the ‘90s. Serrano’s collaboration with Supreme included apparel with Piss Christ and a similar piece that was innocuously titled Madonna & Child. Supreme also took one piece from Serrano’s Semen and Blood series and turned it into printed hoodies, sweatpants, and Vans canvas sneakers.
All hip-hop heads know that Illmatic opens with a sample from the classic 1983 film Wild Style. A clip of that scene, which Nas sampled, is how Supreme properly teased its collaboration with the pioneering New York City graffiti writer, Lee Quinones. A Nuyorican raised in the Lower East Side, Lee is well recognized for painting trains and handball courts through the ‘70s and ‘80s. He went on to become one of the first graffiti writers to successfully transition into a gallery setting during the early ‘80s. His collaboration with Supreme reproduced some of his most iconic work over the years, such as his Lion’s Den handball court mural.
Nan Goldin is a famous American photographer who is well known for her 1986 book The Ballad of Sexual Dependency. Goldin’s landmark book captured the wrought of heroin addiction in the Lower East Side, the No Wave music and art scene, and most importantly, the burgeoning LGBTQ community in New York City after the Stonewall Riots. Her collaboration with Supreme was centered on portraits she took of New York City drag queens. When Vogue asked for a comment from Supreme on the collaboration, the brand said “Goldin's work is real and raw–in the time, places and subject matter she shot. It comes from an era where the subjects she documented were taboo by society’s standards. To do this project with Nan Goldin is to celebrate the diversity her work represents and expose young people to it.” Later this season, Supreme also collaborated with another significant figure from the East Village’s drag scene, the artist Tabboo!
Supreme’s collaboration with Chris Cunningham was made to bless all the hardcore Aphex Twin fans out there. Cunningham is a British artist who is known for directing music videos for a number of electronic musicians. Supreme’s collaboration with Cunningham was specifically centered on images from his 2005 short film, Rubber Johnny.
Two decades after Martin Wong’s passing, Supreme commemorated the Chinese-American artist with a capsule collection dedicated to his work. Originally a ceramic artist from San Francisco, when Wong moved to New York City in 1978 he quickly became entrenched in the culture of the East Village. During his time in New York, Wong painted surreal but realistic images of the Lower East Side, which captured the graffiti movement, urban decay, the LGBTQ community, and a sprawling hispanic enclave in the “Loisaida.” Today, Wong’s work could be found in museums like the MoMa and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Supreme highlighted several paintings by Wong and reproduced it on skateboard decks, hoodies, T-shirts, rayon shirts, beanies, and leather Schott jackets.
David “Shadi” Perez
For its Spring 2019 season, Supreme released a hoodie featuring one of the brand’s very first ads. This ad, along with many others, was shot by David “Shadi” Perez, who is also the man behind a number of iconic ‘90s rap music videos such as “Hot Sex” by A Tribe Called Quest and “Gratitude” by The Beastie Boys. Perez photographed the picture on this hoodie in the basement of Supreme’s Lafayette Street store. It features skaters Justin Pierce, Gio Estevez, Ryan Hickey, Mike Hernandez, and Jones Keefe.
For its Fall 2019 collection, Supreme finally acknowledged European graffiti culture when it collaborated with the Dutch graffiti artist Delta. Known as Boris Tellegen today, Delta is not just one of the most popular European graffiti writers of all time, he’s also credited with pioneering an unique three-dimensional style of lettering. To learn more about the Amsterdam graffiti legend, please peep our interview with Delta on his Supreme collaboration.
When Supreme dropped a range of graphic T-shirts for Winter 2019, it included another must have gem for graffiti nerds. “The Bridge” T-shirt was Supreme’s official collaboration with the infamous New York City graffiti duo, SaneSmith. Their collaboration with Supreme was centered on one of the biggest events in the history of New York City graffiti: Catching a giant tag on the Brooklyn Bridge. To learn more about how Smith pulled off this death-defying stunt with his brother, read our interview about SaneSmith’s collaboration with Supreme here.
When: 2007 and 2020
A revered Japanese contemporary artist who requires little to no introduction, Takashi Murakami remains one of the most influential Japanese artists living today. At the turn of the millennium, he founded the “superflat” movement, a post-modern style of art that was inspired by both Japanese manga and traditional Japanese screen printing. Today, Murakami is known for his collaborations with Kanye West, Louis Vuitton, ComplexCon, and now Supreme for its recently released box logo T-shirt for COVID-19 relief. However, Murakami collaborated with Supreme long before that for a set of skateboard decks in 2007.