The Art Angle Podcast: How Virgil Abloh changed the contemporary art world

Welcome to Art Angle, an Artnet News podcast that dives into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing down to earth the biggest story of each week. Join us each week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market and more, with contributions from our own writers and editors, as well as from artists, curators and other top experts in the field.

The world rarely sees a creative dynamo on Virgil Abloh’s level – or one that’s harder to quantify. Born to Ghanaian immigrants and raised in Chicago as a trained architect, he is best known for being the visionary male artistic director of Louis Vuitton (and the first black man to fill that role), a position he held when he was 41 died from a rare cancer.

Abloh’s first campaign image for Louis Vuitton embodied his artistic vision and spoke volumes about the creator himself. Photo by Inez and Vinoodh.

But his multifaceted career began to blaze long before that. An important early milestone? In 2009, Abloh did an internship at Fendi alongside rapper and fashion designer Kanye West – a relationship that led to Abloh later serving as creative director for West’s agency Donda. He founded the short-lived but highly influential streetwear label Pyrex Vision in 2012, and sold other brands’ clothing, which he screen-printed with his own label’s name and elevated at eye-watering prices – a Duchamp gesture of appropriation, impeccable branding and the happy outsider kind -to-inside humor that shaped Abloh’s career.

Installation view, Virgil Abloh:

Installation view, Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech”. Brooklyn Museum, through January 29, 2023. Quote on carpet is by Jian DeLeon. (Photo: Danny Perez, Brooklyn Museum).

In 2019, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago organized the first museum exhibition dedicated to Abloh’s work in “Figures of Speech,” a sprawling exhibition that drew twice the usual number of visitors at the museum and helped build Abloh’s legacy in the field to consolidate the fine arts. The exhibition, now on view in Brooklyn, examines Abloh’s activations of luxury brands, perspectives on design and architecture, and collaborations with artists such as Takashi Murakami, Jenny Holzer and Rem Koolhaas.

This week, Artnet News Brand Editor William Van Meter spoke about the designer’s work and legacy with Jian Deleon, Nordstrom’s menswear and editorial director, who collaborated with Abloh on one of his most recent projects – a capsule collection called New Concepts 18 : Virgil Abloh Securities, coming out this week.

Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech is on view at the Brooklyn Museum through January 23, 2023.

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