In honor of Virgil Abloh's prolific legacy in the fields of architecture and design, the Brooklyn Museum has put together "Figures of Speech", an exhibition that offers visitors an unprecedented look into the artist’s work of over nearly two decades. Running from July 1st, 2022 until January 29th, 2023, the artist's prototypes are presented alongside finished works of art, products, and fashion designs, along with his myriad inspiration, from centuries-old paintings to contemporary signage at construction sites.
Born in 1980 in Rockford, Illinois to Ghanaian immigrants, Virgil Abloh made a career of "questioning assumptions and subverting expectations". Although he was trained as an architect, but he found his calling as a fashion designer. Throughout his career, he worked across different design disciplines, collaborating with graphic and furniture designers, musicians, contemporary artists, and fashion designers.
"Figures of Speech" highlights how Abloh’s emphasis on collaboration reshaped popular notions and contemporary taste in fashion, art, commerce, design, and youth culture. The new addition to the Brooklyn Museum’s presentation of “Figures of Speech” is Abloh’s “social sculpture” which anchors the exhibition in the central atrium of the Museum’s Great Hall and draws on the artist's architecture background. The sculpture offers a physical space for gathering and performances, and showcases Abloh’s interdisciplinary inspirations from across the fields of music, design, and visual arts.
The exhibition features an emphasis on dialogue, which Abloh implemented through his use of language and quotation marks, turning the objects he designed and the people who wear his clothing into “figures of speech.” Presented in the Brooklyn Museum’s Great Hall, the exhibition features over 100 items of brand-new elements and never-before-seen objects, such as graphic murals, his 2003 architecture thesis model, furniture pieces, poetry, photography, drawings, sculptures, paintwork, Off-White apparel, and industrial products, to name a few.
“Figures of Speech” is organized by Michael Darling, former James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The Brooklyn Museum presentation is organized by writer and curator Antwaun Sargent. Exhibition design for Brooklyn Museum is by Mahfuz Sultan, Creative Director, Clocks in collaboration with Tawanda Chiweshe and Francisco Gaspar, Creative and Artistic Directors of ALASKA ALASKA, and Lance Singletary, Director of Exhibition Design, Brooklyn Museum. Exhibition design for previous iterations of “Figures of Speech” is by Samir Bantal, Director of AMO, the research and design studio of OMA.
On November 28, 202, Virgil Abloh passed away at the age of 41, after a silent battle with cancer. The news was announced on Abloh’s official Instagram Account, stating that he battled a “rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma […] privately since his diagnosis in 2019”. He was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2018.