Virgil Abloh: "Figures of Speech" is the first museum exhibition devoted to the work of multihyphenate artist Virgil Abloh (American, b. 1980), best known for Off-White, the first luxury fashion brand designed and owned by an African American. Abloh’s work celebrates the ethos of street fashion, which appropriates—and occasionally corrupts—high culture, serving it up as something fresh and new. Justifying this time-honored method of subversion and intentional disruption, he has said: “Duchamp is my lawyer.”
Abloh got his start working for Kanye West’s creative team, having connected with the then-emerging rapper in 2002 while pursuing a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Adopting West's deeply collaborative process for his own creative ventures, Abloh has since connected visual artists, musicians, graphic designers, fashion designers, and architects to craft an all-encompassing artistic universe.
The exhibition offers an in-depth look at the Chicago-based artist’s ever-expanding discipline, which encompasses fashion, architecture, music, and design. His signature fashion is presented in mannequin displays alongside video documentation of his most iconic shows. The exhibition also features the artist’s work in other mediums, including furniture design, graphic design work, architectural interventions, and collaborative projects with other designers and artists such as Peter Saville and Tom Sachs. At the core of Abloh’s work is a deep interest in empowering young people, and this will be central to the exhibition, with a full program of youth-oriented programming and cross-disciplinary offerings that mirror the artist’s wide range of interests.
The exhibition is organized by Michael Darling, James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator. It is presented in the Griffin Galleries of Art on the museum’s fourth floor.
Lead support for Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech” is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris: Caryn and King Harris, Katherine Harris, Toni and Ron Paul, Pam and Joe Szokol, Linda and Bill Friend, and Stephanie and John Harris; Zell Family Foundation; Cari and Michael J. Sacks; and Karyn and Bill Silverstein; and Matt Bayer and Joyce Yaung and the Bayer Family Foundation.
Major support is provided by Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, Jennifer and Alec Litowitz, and Phillips.
Generous support is contributed by Ellen-Blair Chube as well as Susie L. Karkomi and Marvin Leavitt.