Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech” exhibit takes over the MCA


Vijay Kavuri

Fashion designer and Kanye West pal Virgil Abloh has come full circle in Chicago. From growing up in suburban Rockford, to opening his very own exhibit at the Museum for Contemporary Art in Chicago, he shows dreams do come true. I visited this new exhibit recently, and it shows the creativity Abloh exudes. 

Abloh became a well-known name after becoming friends with another fellow Chicagoan, Kanye West. They both became fast friends during West’s rise on the music scene and, eventually, on the fashion scene. After interning along with West at Louis Vuitton in Paris, Abloh eventually went on to be named the men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton. 

This exhibit at the MCA shows samples of Abloh’s fashion designs, including his first line with Pyrex. They also had on display many of his “Off-White” brand collaboration samples with Nike’s shoe line. These shoes have taken off over the last couple years and have become some of the must have footwear for sneakerheads around the world. 

I was drawn  to this exhibit to see his works on display related to his relationship with Kanye West. I’ve been a West fan since his first album in 2002, and have been following Abloh since his Off-White co-op with Nike. Primarily there was a work of art, that was a large version of Kanye West’s album, “Yeezus.” This was an album packaging designed by Abloh. This life-size album was awesome to see.  Also, something I came across was the original plate used to design the famous album “Watch the Throne” from Kanye West and Jay-Z. I had not known Abloh also designed the artwork for the album packaging. 

They also had a room playing an interview with Abloh, where he was talking about how he came up with his designs and how he finds the motivation behind his creations. “Creation comes from two forms – the purist and the tourist,” Abloh said in the interview.” He described art for the purist as “something that is in the eye of the beholder” and that art for the tourist is “something for people to just come and see and move on.” Both of these were on display during the exhibit. The entire exhibit is labeled as “purist,” until you reach the exit to go to the gift store, which was labeled as “tourist.” It’s the perfect of example of Abloh’s explanation.

I went to this exhibit with two friends who also are big fans. Michael Tiemchaiyapum summed up his experience by saying, “how it’s overall refreshing to have Virgil include his hometown of Chicago with all of his artistic ventures from the MCA to the LV pop-up to the NikeLab, giving inspiration to many Chicago creatives, with the MCA being its centerpiece.” 

Dimitri Hepburn said, “I didn’t know much about Virgil going in other than ‘Off White’ and his connection to Kanye. I feel like the exhibit does a good job of showcasing his design work and art for both the purists and the tourists (like me).”  

I would recommend this art exhibit to any hip-hop fans, fashionistas or sneakerheads out there who want to see a local artist who has been able to come back after making it big and show off his work to the public. Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago runs through Sept. 22. Tickets are available for purchase at, tickets are $15 for public and $8 with a student ID.