A new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum will pay tribute to the late Virgil Abloh, who passed away in November after a private battle with a rare form of cancer.
The exhibition, “Figures of Speech,” features a mix of fashion, large-scale sculpture, immersive spaces, videos and sketches spanning Abloh’s two decades of influential work in the fashion industry and beyond. Running from July 1, 2022 through Jan. 29, 2023, “Figures of Speech” will be the first traveling survey exhibition since his passing.
“Figures of Speech” will serve as a rendition of the 2019 Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s exhibit of the same name, which was the first dedicated display of Abloh’s work.
The Brooklyn Museum’s tribute to the streetwear maverick was first announced in an Instagram post following news of his death, with the museum stating that the exhibit was being curated by Michael Darling, former James W. Alsdorf chief curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and organized by Antwaun Sargent, independent curator and writer.
“Virgil’s dedication to his artistry provided new opportunities and equitable pathways in art and design. He will be remembered and celebrated through his legacy. Our heartfelt condolences are with his family,” the museum said in the post.
Since his passing, artists and celebrities have taken to their respective modes to pay tribute. In November, Louis Vuitton honored the visionary with a presentation of his Spring/Summer 2022 collection in Miami that encompassed a timeline of his work, followed by a screen that read “Virgil Was Here.”
Earlier this month, rappers A$AP Rocky and $NOT featured a mural of Abloh in their music video for “Doja.” At the Beijing Winter Olympics, American snowboarder Shaun White carried his board in a custom-made Louis Vuitton case to honor the designer, accompanied by an Instagram post with the caption, “Virgil was here.”
The founder of luxury streetwear brand Off-White and artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton, Abloh carried a legacy that stretches beyond the fashion world. He’s credited with breathing new life into the streetwear space and turning it from a niche market for a small crowd of special fans into a movement that changed the luxury world forever. Today, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated the size of the global streetwear market at $185 billion, representing about 10 percent of the entire global apparel and footwear market.
With a DJ past, Abloh often incorporated musical elements into his designs, honoring streetwear’s hip-hop roots in an authentic fashion. His affinity for helping young designers, combined with his unique background in architecture and work with multi-hyphenate artists of all kinds, solidified him as a cultural fixture.
In 2016, the Brooklyn Museum featured Abloh and fellow designer and friend Heron Preston in its “Guest Bodega Clerk Series.” Both designers took over artist Tom Sachs’ Presidential Vampire Booth, a display of boomboxes, and played a special live music set highlighting youth culture on the web.
The museum often weaves fashion into its displays, previously honoring the designs and inspiration of icons like Jean Paul Gaultier and Pierre Cardin. Currently, it’s running a “Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams” exhibit through Feb. 20.