Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech


The modern renaissance person is a Creative Director. A Visionary. A Creator and Storyteller. These words often appear in Instagram bios and LinkedIn summaries that inspire many an eye roll. But it’s what we aspire to be in creative fields. People who are able to create without attachment to a medium or industry, who can excel in more than one field. People who are able to transcend the boundaries of what society deems as creativity, and craft messages that impact the world in striking ways. People who are able to make a name for themselves, associate themselves with prestige, but still stay true to their character. People who have style, and can sell it without selling out.

The modern renaissance person, for all intents and purposes, is basically Virgil Abloh.

It’s truly baffling how someone with such typical humble roots can make it internationally. Especially when it comes to the luxury fashion world, how many people of color are there to begin with? 

He’s a fashion designer, an artist, an entrepreneur, and a DJ. He has a degree in engineering and architecture. He is the current artistic director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear. He is an Illinois native and the son of immigrants. And he’s only 39. 

But anyways, my point is, Virgil Abloh is pretty damn inspirational. After receiving his Masters of Architecture, he interned at Fendi with Kanye West, served as artistic director for the Watch the Throne album… and eventually founded his own high end streetwear brand, Off-White. He’s partnered with top brands (Nike, Ikea) and world renowned artists (Murakami, Holzer). He has such an elite network of partners, collaborators, and fans. Oh, and apparently he’s a DJ resident at the Wynn hotel in Vegas.

This year, he had his very first solo museum exhibition, which kicked off in the summer at MCA. The show has proven that museums don’t have to be stuffy, they can be cool. And the cool kids will turn out. According to Complex, the show doubled the museum’s summer attendance. 

But this isn’t really news. We know this. We know that when exhibitions become events, when museums put on a show, not an art show, but a show, demand will exceed supply and people will gladly line up for a chance to be a part of the experience. We’re living in a renaissance for modern museums. And museums, to their credit, are doing a damn good job in strategizing and capitalizing on this. Figuring out a way to build museum-going into the culture of the next generation, focusing on the future, experimenting and constantly offering something new to build a bridge to pop culture. A lot of other flailing businesses and industries (read: media) could learn a lesson or two in staying relevant and building a sustainable business from museum directors.

Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech.” is putting up a challenge. It challenges the idea of a museum, being pristine, untouchable, not a place for teenagers. It challenges attendees to look at the institution of a museum differently. It challenges society to rethink the role of an artist, and the career of an artist. It captures something that is entirely a product of its time. Seemingly haphazard, but potent in messaging. And agnostic of medium. 

The exhibition is, essentially, a blueprint. The architecture-trained artist has laid out a foundation. Attendees walking through the exhibition are following the steps of his journey from his beginnings in Chicago to where he is today. 

To me, it’s always exciting to see young foot traffic in a museum. People like Virgil Abloh are representative of the cultural renaissance we live in today. More diverse than ever. More globally-minded and connected. More willing to experiment, defy expectations, invent and reinvent. And excited to inspire the future.

[ First posted: AUGUST 2019 ]

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