It’s been three years in the making and arguably, Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” at the MCA is one of the most anticipated gallery events in Chicago. Don’t believe me? I’ve had this event on my calendar as soon as information was made available and I made sure I would be in Chicago for the opening festivities.
So, here I am bringing you my full report on both the exhibition and the party of a lifetime that I was beyond honored to attend. First things firsts, let’s explore the exhibition that everyone is talking about.
An Exhibition’s Dream Team
Bringing the exhibit to life would be none other than the famed chief curator of the museum, Michael Darling.
He has put together exhibits such as David Bowie “Is…”, Takashi Murakami’s “The Octopus Eats It’s Own Leg”, and now Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” Only the art world’s most trusted hands would be able to pull off this genre bending exploration and Michael’s contemporary eye and innovative approach is sure to do the trick.
As requested by Virgil Abloh himself, the space was designed by Samir Bantal, who is the director of AMO – rem koolhaas’s architectural firm. There are many structural elements that are a first for the museum, which adds to the depth of the experience.
Virgil Abloh Pandemonium
On the day tickets were released, Virgil Abloh pandemonium was in full effect. Fans were eagerly waiting by their computers; with tickets to opening day and the subsequent weeks selling out almost instantly.
“Figures of Speech” was the talk everywhere from Vogue Magazine to Complex.
Virgil Abloh’s rise in the fashion world can be best described as meteoric. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been photographed in his signature line Off-White. I’m sure you even walked on Michigan Avenue and spotted the classic yellow industrial belt.
While Virgil is most known for fashion, “Figures of Speech” gives visitors a rare glimpse into Virgil as not only a designer but a well-rounded creative.
More than Fashion
The exhibit first explores Virgil’s humble beginnings as a streetwear designer for Pyrex. As one moves throughout the exhibit, one can see Virgil’s fashion, his influence in music, and even some early prototypes from his collaborations with Nike and Ikea. My personal favorite was the larger than life album of “Yeezus”
However, Virgil’s work is not only purely aesthetic. Instead, his work highlights social commentary such as race in America. One can see his interpretation of the black experience in the portion of the exhibit entitled “Black Gaze”
All in all, Virgil is clearly trying to step outside of the box that society may have put him in, and “Figures of Speech” serves as the artist’s statement.
Entering the Urban Ruins
To celebrate the genre bending artist, MCA hosted their ArtEdge Gala. The theme – Urban Ruins.
For context, MCA’s ArtEdge is ultimately the party of all Summer parties in Chicago. If you don’t want to take my word for it, see for yourself the excitement that was MCA’s 50th Anniversary ArtEdge Gala. Let’s just say the bar was super high for this event, and this next iteration of ArtEdge did not disappoint.
Our VIP welcome started of course with a row of servers pouring bubbly. However, what awaited all attendees was a full and total immersion into the world of Virgil Abloh.
To set the tone for the evening, guests proudly proclaimed themselves as “Purists” or “Tourists” These words can be seen at the entrance of the exhibit, but they are also philosophical phrases that Virgil abides by.
A custom Off-White tag featured the label and guests tagged their designer apparel with their newly claimed identity.
As a nod to the Urban Ruins theme, guests were escorted to the atrium via a freight elevator. However, in the freight was a sparkling chandelier complete with neon construction cones. A beautiful juxtaposition of a stunning yet gritty elegance.
Virgil Abloh and Friends
It was arguably the hottest ticket in town with a reception that was reminiscent of the pages of a magazine.
While sipping on a glass of champagne I encountered iconic figures from Chicago and beyond like Secretary of State Jesse White, world renown artist Arthur Jafa, artist extraordinaire Takashi Murakami, Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange and Virgil Abloh himself.
I later learned that artist like Nick Cave and Jerry Lorenzo of Fear of God were also present. So many of Virgil closest friends from his creative world came out to support and witness this iconic moment in his career.
Guests donned their finest Off-White with many rocking neon and vibrant hues. I think I spotted about ten peri-winkle blue limited edition Off-White Nike’s which were created in collaboration with the exhibition.
And unlike traditional galas, fresh Nikes were a mainstay versus sky high stilettos and dress shoes.
A White Piano and the Incomparable Dev Hynes
When leaving the reception, guests made their way to a garage. As they made their way to their seats, they walked past enlarged images reminiscent of the exhibition.
There they dined on fine cuisine. However, the evening couldn’t end without a once in a lifetime surprise.
What awaited guests was an intimate evening in the atrium with Brit-Pop star Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange.
For a packed crowd, Dev performed songs from a stark white piano from his discography. He even surprised the audience with a never released song. No synths were present and no 808s. Dev used the space to show off his classical chops while honoring his good friend Virgil Abloh.
A $2M Evening
All in all, the ArtEdge Gala was another success for the museum’s philanthropic efforts raising a grand total of $2M.
The gala was just a snippet of what’s to come from the overwhelming popularity of this exhibition.
And just how popular is Figures of Speech? Let’s just say, the 4th floor of the museum was overflowing with Off-White clad fans on opening day.
If seeing the exhibit or attending the gala wasn’t enough, guests could make purchases at the pop-up store “Church and State” which comes complete with rare and exclusive Off-White merch.
If you would like to see more of Virgil Abloh’s Figure’s of Speech you can purchase tickets for the exhibit HERE or you can check out MCA’s Primetime entitled “Question Everything” for a lively party that brings Virgil’s aesthetic to life.
So what are you? A tourist or a purist? Either way, discover for yourself by exploring “Figures of Speech”