Virgil Abloh signing shoes at Spazio Maiocchi in Milan

MILAN “Question Everything” is definitely one of the pillars of Virgil Abloh’s artistic approach, which is based on the exploration of contemporary culture and a definition of new platforms for the expression of different communities. And that was the title of an installation of white flags printed with the motto that Abloh unveiled Friday night at Milan’s Spazio Maiocchi, a cultural space established by Carhartt WIP and Slam Jam.

“I’m honored and I feel equally weird to be here talking in one of the most important creative capitals in the world. The creative community here in Milan is so special,” said Abloh, who gave a talk during the event organized in collaboration with art magazine Kaleidoscope. The title collaborated with Abloh on a limited-edition special issue that comes with an exclusive T-shirt.

Along with the flag exhibition, Abloh showcased a billboard he created based on an advertising campaign by cigarette company Newport.

“The painting that’s behind us outside comes from a specific bodywork of mine centered on advertising,” said the founder of Off-White and men’s creative director of Louis Vuttion, who was inspired by the billboards that advertise specific products based on demographics in the most segregated areas of Chicago, his hometown. “I believe that advertising is an art form, obviously, but it’s a way of programming. I see my art as a way of reprogramming, physically intercepting that algorithm that is dictating what we decide as our aesthetic.”

Virgil Abloh's artwork at Spazio Maiocchi in Milan

Virgil Abloh’s artwork at Spazio Maiocchi in Milan.  Ivan Grianti

During the talk, Abloh spoke extensively of his “Figures of Speech” exhibition dedicated to him and his work that is opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in June.

“The exhibit in Chicago is not just one thing. It’s not about fashion, sculptures, paintings or photography. I’m 38 now. I’ve been making art since the last 15 years across different platforms, so the show will be about the things that were made in the past but also things that we will be making in the future,” he said, highlighting that the show will focus on “five or six pillars my art stands on.” Abloh also added that the exhibit will include collaborations. “A part of my art is definitely challenging the notion of collaboration. Actually, when you start making things you understand life itself is a collaboration. I like my art to showcase what happens between people when they collaborate.”

Abloh said a book will be launched in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition. “With a book, you make a wrap of everything you have done,” he said.

Asked about the link between the creative process behind a DJ set or a collection, Abloh said that “in a way, DJing for me is going to the gym, doing a Louis Vuitton collection is playing in the World Cup. DJing keeps your brain sharp, it helps me think fast and in a cohesive way.”

Asked by an American young designer who was born in Philadelphia and now works at Timberland in Switzerland about the opportunities for a person of color to succeed in the fashion industry, Abloh replied: “I’m an ultimate optimist and I want to think that there must be a reason why I’m sitting here. When it comes to diversifying the industry, I think that if someone is managing to succeed, he is actually building the platform to other people to do it.”