CHICAGO—Virgil Abloh will be the subject of a major retrospective at The Museum of Contemporary Art here next year.
Currently titled “Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech,” the exhibit will open June 8 and run all summer, closing the third week of September.
“Both Virgil and I really like the title,” said Michael Darling, the museum’s chief curator. “It’s a term that comes out of the world of language and there’s so much language that he plays with in his work. He’s putting quotes around everything and questioning what these words mean. He uses so much text in his clothes and once you wear his clothing, you’re walking around and you’re enacting his work with your body in space.”
This use of language will be translated with mannequins in the exhibit with messages on them. “They literally become figures carrying speech,” Darling said.
Fashion will comprise half to three quarters of the show.
“Virgil has helped us recognize how fashion has become a central hub for contemporary culture. It seems like art, music and design flows through fashion,” Darling said. “We’re in a cultural moment where fashion is this common ground. People are using fashion to express themselves and all these disciplines are coming together in the realm of fashion.”
The retrospective is a continuation of exhibits at the MCA like David Bowie and Merce Cunningham, Darling said, looking at people who seem to have limitless creative boundaries and Abloh, a DJ, designer and artistic director of Louis Vuitton men’s wear, fits the bill.
“We’re very interested in art participants that are very broad and multidisciplinary. He fits that mold that doesn’t fit boundaries and is exploring all these different fields. That’s really an interest to us,” Darling said. “The fact that he’s from Chicago and lives in Chicago and yet he’s lighting up the international fashion and design scene, we felt we really wanted to celebrate that.”
The exhibit will trace the scope of Abloh’s career, including his work for Donda, Kanye West’s creative agency; early fashion experiments; Pyrex Vision; and Been Trill.
“Then we’ll do a deep dive into his Off-White collections for men and women and then also look at other furniture and architectural projects that he’s done including things he did for Ikea [or will do] and we haven’t totally decided yet, but I’m sure we will look at his Louis Vuitton collection and probably his Nike collection and also some of his forays into fine art, painting and sculpture,” Darling said.
Music will also be included, but how the exhibit will reflect Abloh’s work as a DJ is still to be determined.
“Music will come out in terms of graphic design he’s done for musicians over the years and musicians wearing his clothes,” Darling said. “There will probably be music filling the air and we will probably have footage from fashion shows.”
There will be surprise elements, including items Abloh is making exclusively for the exhibit which no one has seen before, as well as clothing made for the exhibit and not available for commercial consumption, Darling said.
Following Chicago, the exhibit will most likely head to more locations.
“We’re trying to lock in other venues it might travel to, definitely some other cities in the U.S. and some international cities as well,” said Darling, who’s been working on the exhibit for two years. “We’re kind of in the final runway at this point.”