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Brooklyn Museum Exhibit Honours Virgil Abloh

‘Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech’ features never-before-seen archival material, as well as pieces the late designer created for Louis Vuitton, Off-White and Ikea.
Designer Virgil Abloh died after a private battle with cancer in November.
Designer Virgil Abloh died after a private battle with cancer in November. (Getty Images)

This week, “Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech,” an exhibition focused on the work of the late designer, opens at the Brooklyn Museum. The show was first staged at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2019, but its New York incarnation includes new sculptural work and previously unseen archival material.

The show includes items from Abloh’s two decades in fashion, music, architecture and art. Antwaun Sargent, an art critic and author of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion,” curated the exhibition. Sargent said he wanted to highlight how Abloh‘s blended genres.

Fashion pieces in the exhibit include sneakers Abloh designed for Nike and select garments from his fashion label, Off-White, like a Lycra gown he designed for Beyoncé. Also exhibited are ready-to-wear pieces and accessories designed by Abloh while working as Louis Vuitton’s men‘s artistic director.

Sculptural work from Abloh includes green foam mannequins from the Louis Vuitton Men’s Spring-Summer 2019 collection as well as pieces from his furniture collections. The exhibit also showcases Abloh’s arsenal of collaborations, including designs for Ikea, Rimowa and Supreme. Framed on a wall is a cease-and-desist letter the United Nations sent Abloh in 2018 after he used its logo in his work.

Anchoring the exhibit is a life-size wooden “social sculpture” house that was designed by Abloh and represents a space for inclusivity of Black artists, who historically have been excluded from cultural institutions. Pieces from Abloh’s work with Black artists, including Kanye West and Shayne Oliver, also appear in the show and projected on a wall is footage of Abloh’s documentary about American track sprinter Sha’carri Richardson. The show’s exit features a mural of Abloh’s heroes, including Pharrell Williams and Michael Jordan, and important landmarks from Chicago, Abloh’s hometown.

The exhibit includes a gift shop, titled “Church and State,” selling merchandise Abloh designed for the museum in 2019. Representatives for the Brooklyn Museum said the gift shop is a part of the show, in a nod to Abloh’s knack for mixing art, design and commerce.

Abloh had been working closely with Sargent on the exhibit until he passed away from cancer in 2021.

The exhibit opens to the public July 1 and will run through Jan. 29, 2023.

Further Reading

Executives at New Guards Group and LVMH reveal exclusively to BoF the ‘endless’ pipeline the designer left behind and their plans to harness his legacy to build a multi-billion-dollar brand.


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