The art of Virgil Abloh

Let’s remember the brilliant designer, who recently passed away at the age of 41, who was able to mix and match different disciplines – especially fashion and art. Like the time Off-White was on show together with Leonardo da Vinci at the Louvre.

He managed to mix art, fashion, music, architecture and design by undertaking extravagant ventures that saw the creation of advertising campaigns whose only aim was to arouse great astonishment, surprise, and wonder. Through his brilliant vision, he created unexpected fusions and tales of distant worlds and times. He was a versatile artist, a designer, an entrepreneur – he was Virgil Abloh.

Abloh, who sadly passed away on 28 November, presented himself to the public as a contemporary patron of the arts and the idea of beauty. He knew how to mix art and fashion, art and architecture, design and communication with elegant contemporary know-how, in a skillful and cultured street style.

In 2020, on the occasion of the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the Louvre Museum to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death, Abloh chose to exhibit, along with the works of the Tuscan genius, the garments of his Capsule Collection inspired by the master’s greatest works. The idea behind it was absolutely brilliant. Off-White, the fashion brand he founded, one of the most loved and desired, especially by Millennials, became the creator and author of a cultural system that went way beyond the garment. It was not a subject that exploits the object, but rather an active system of interchange where art became a messenger of fashion and vice versa.

“I was fascinated by Da Vinci early on, I was in my senior year at Wisconsin, taking an art class. I was super interested not only by his artworks but also by the influence he had in many disciplines besides art: science, engineering, architecture. To me, he symbolizes everything the Renaissance was”. This is what Virgil Abloh said in a press release issued by the Louvre on that very occasion.

Virgil Abloh. Photo Bogdan Plakov
Virgil Abloh. Photo Bogdan Plakov

The Virgin of the Rocks and Saint Anne, The Virgin and Child with the Lamb, together with other drawings by Leonardo depicting the human body were the subjects chosen by Abloh, i.e., the stylistically most representative, most cultured, and most enigmatic ones. This collection did not include the Mona Lisa also because it had already been used in a spring-summer collection in 2018. Cultured, knowledgeable, refined, Abloh chose to reach a new audience to bring art closer to the people, as well as sell it.

“I want to crash together these two worlds that are seemingly different: fashion and high art. It’s a crucial part of my overall body of work to prove that any place, no matter how exclusive it seems, is accessible to everyone. that you can be interested in expressing yourself through more than one practice and that creativity does not have to be tied to just one discipline. I think that Leonardo da Vinci was maybe the first artist to live by that principle, and I am trying to as well”, Abloh added in the same press release mentioned above.

Fusion, interdisciplinarity. The autumn-winter 2021-2022 men’s collection for Louis Vuitton is also based on these principles. Iconic pieces that narrate extraordinary architecture through shapes and sizes adapted to clothing. A collection inspired by travel with quotes and references to James Baldwin’s 1953 essay “Stranger in the Village”. Abloh presents on the catwalk stereotypical figures such as the artist, the salesman, the vagrant, the architect, and reinterprets them through new forms, which become clear only in the most evident details.

To quote a great art lover, writer and traveller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Personality is everything in art and poetry”. Virgil Abloh would have had a lot more to show, and not just on his catwalks.

Opening image: Off-White c/o Virgil Abloh & the Musée du Louvre. Courtesy Off-White

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