Virgil Abloh Exhibition @ The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Opening June 10 and running all the way until September 22, 2019, is a highly anticipated exhibition hosted by The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the first devoted to celebrating the life and work of genre-bending artist and designer Virgil Abloh, founder of the Off-White brand and artistic director of Louis Vuitton. Set in an immersive space, the MCA exhibition will offer an in-depth look at defining highlights of Abloh’s career including a program of cross-disciplinary offerings that will mirror the artist’s range of interests across music, fashion, architecture, and design. The variety of components to the exhibition is incredibly impressive, with a versatile range including but not limited to:
The After Party
The After Party; an early access to the Virgil Abloh “FIGURES OF SPEECH” exhibition followed by a musical performance by Dev Hynes, and a lavish dessert reception with a complimentary premium bar, which is taking place on Saturday, June 8.
MCA x Virgil Abloh Design Challenge
The MCA x Virgil Abloh Design Challenge, a project designed to encourage young and upcoming artists and design prodigies to flourish by creating a challenge to highlight the creative vision of Chicago youth 14-21. Starting on June 10, you are invited to submit a creative response on Instagram to this challenge: ‘Take something boring or broken and turn it into something extraordinary.’
Talks and Discussions
Talks and discussions with some of Virgil Abloh’s revered peers and close friends on several topics such as Don C on streetwear; Style and Sustainability with designers Iris Alonzo and Carolina Crespo; and Virgil Abloh himself with Michael Darling discussing the entirety of the exhibition and the components within it.
“Church and State”
“Church and State” which will act as a continuation of the works in the galleries, this unique guest Virgil Abloh pop-up store will be located on the fourth floor of the museum. Named and styled by Abloh and his team, “Church & State” features a retrospective of best-selling Off-White product, old and new, as well as an exclusive collection inspired by the exhibition.
Audio “FIGURES OF SPEECH”
An Audio accompaniment to the “FIGURES OF SPEECH” exhibition designed to enhance your experience within the MCA by acting as a guided tour narrated by the likes of art curator and historian Hans Ulricht Obrist. Fashion critic Amy Verner, and a whole host of others and will offer an insight into Abloh’s career, ethos and methodology around the creative process.
“An Array of Air”
For me, the most important and exciting component of this exhibition is one that is much more in my field of interest. “An Array of Air” is dedicated to Virgil Abloh’s partnership with Nike that began in 2017 when he was enlisted to redesign ten classic silhouettes from the famous Nike portfolio which would eventually be known as ‘The 10′ Collection, garnering widespread acclaim and immense popularity. Using collaged elements, transparent materials, self-referential labels, tabs, and zip ties to emphasize the shoes’ construction Virgil Abloh developed the deconstructed DIY style that has now become a staple of his work with Nike and one that has started an entire trend within in the footwear industry. “An Array of Air” presents a display of unreleased shoes from subsequent collaborations between Off-White and Nike in various stages of prototyping. These objects under construction, offer a behind-the-scenes view of Abloh’s design process, which involves working through many concepts and iterations of a project before reaching the final result.
Whether or not any of these will ever see the shelf of a retailer is highly doubtful in some cases but in other instances highly possible. As a massive fan of his work, and in trainers, in general, it is definitely fun to trawl through these concepts and dare to dream what could have been, and what could still be. So what I’m going to do for you is pick out some of my favourite pieces from the exhibition and ponder the question if only to tease you as I was teased on first viewing.
Off-White x Air Jordan 1 Yellow
For me, the model that immediately caught my eye was this attractive colourway for the Off-White x Air Jordan 1, this particular silhouette since its initial inception has been granted three distinctive colourways. A ‘UNC’ labelled blue and white, a classic red and white ‘Chicago’ and a white and translucent OG concoction but it would appear that Abloh at one point or another was considering a Yellow iteration to his design, and I for one am a fan.
Off-White x Air Force 1 ‘MCA’
Another shoe which featured which I can say I was definitely a lot more familiar with was this blue Off-White x Air Force 1. A design I have speculated on in great length since it appeared in an Instagram post on the feet of Virgil Abloh himself, the once labelled Off-White x Air Force 1 ‘MCA’ I once expected to get a general release to accompany this exhibition has since been rebuked. Yet, I am still hopeful of a release sometime soon with raffles and official promotional images for the shoe appearing across the internet.
Off-White x Air Jordan 4
One of the most interest designs to be showcased for me was the interesting Off-White x Air Jordan 4 prototype, which is dated 2013. It caught my eye for a couple reasons; most notably, it seems to be a very complete design in comparison with some of the more rough and unfinished ideas, and it is a silhouette in the Air Jordan 4 which has never been publicly released by Virgil Abloh and Off-White, but one that would definitely garner a significant interest from fans. Built in a similar way to the Off-White x Air Jordan 1 OG, this cream/white/translucent colourway is definitely one you could have seen released as part of ‘The 10’ Collection, I guess it just didn’t make the final cut. Shame really.
Of course, there is a whole host of other attractive designs that feature in the exhibition, including an all red Air Max 90, and some designs which allude to the new Athlete in Progress capsule scheduled for the second half of June. For me, the most important thing to take from this is that Virgil Abloh isn’t short of ideas, and any speculation that his collaboration with Nike is drying up is way off the mark.