In past years at Art Basel Miami Beach and all of its myriad satellite events, Virgil Abloh's work has mostly been relegated to DJ status, but this year he's taken it up a notch to prove his reputation as modern-day Renaissance man: The Off-White designer makes his public debut today (Dec. 1) at Design Miami with a furniture collection.
It's not entirely surprising to see Abloh move into another creative medium, given his already multifaceted career as a DJ, fashion designer, creative director for Kanye West and general man-about-town (and many of them, from his studio base in Paris to new Off White outposts in Tokyo and Singapore). But perhaps the most obvious clue to his new design foray is his background in architecture. Abloh studied the subject while at The Illinois Institute of Technology, and it's easy to see the influence that the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe curriculum, with its grid structure, has had on his Off White creations and now furniture.
The collection of chairs and tables are raw and durable, using materials like stone, wood and steel and feature chairs in the shape of cubes and a grid-topped table with a base of wood and stone that reads like a work-in-progress tableau vivant.
Abloh's booth also includes his signature white stripes in the form of rotating signage that reads "Picture a lake" and "This is not real." Abloh also lent his voice to a night panel Wednesday night (Nov. 30), "Open Worlds: Art in the Age of Interactivity," alongside artist Daniel Arsham, actress Rosario Dawson and filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg.
personal artworks "components table / tri-vision sign / free cubes" booth C06 @designmiami / miami @artbasel - represented by @aureliejuliencollectibledesign
A photo posted by @virgilabloh on Nov 29, 2016 at 9:08am PST
At the event, held at Audemars Piguet's Art Commission "Reconstruction of the Universe" by artist Sun Xun, the designer talked about creating products and pieces that are made to also exist both in the real world and in the virtual worlds of social media. "I think the screen or the device that's in your pocket, it's the video game controller. (I'm) trying to do something exciting on this treadmill of culture," he said at the panel, which was hosted by Take-Two Interactive. "The way for me to play it, and the way my audience receives the work that I do, it's through this image, it's through the scroll."
The designer also went on to talk about the importance of introducing new culture and art to his audience, a collection of some 753K on Instagram and Twitter and a customer that often skews younger. "My following loves a printed t-shirt, of course, but this week to be able to post a chair from Design Miami, it's so far removed from their typical attraction," he said. "I'm doing it on purpose to lead them to other spheres beyond fashion." Abloh has also pointed to the importance of a new generation of designers -- including himself -- representing Art Basel and Design Miami.