On the First Day of Artmas, My True Love Gave to Me… a Handbag From a Giant of Contemporary Art and Design History

To kick off our holiday gift guide, we went to Virgil Abloh’s “Church & State” shop, which the late creative force incorporated into his Brooklyn Museum show.

The Off-White FOS 04 Architecture Flap Bag, designed by Virgil Abloh for his “Figures of Speech” exhibition shop. Photo: Austin Dewees, Brooklyn Museum.

Welcome to The 12 Days of Artmas, our non-denominational holiday extravaganza—an advent calendar with gift ideas for art lovers of all stripes, dropping daily through December 24.

More than one year after his passing, Virgil Abloh is still presiding over the culture. The fifth and final iteration of the late artist and designer’s “Figures of Speech” exhibition (through January 29, 2023), which originated at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2019, has been drawing hordes to the Brooklyn Museum since it opened over the summer—including many a hypebeast.

They’ve been lining up not only to see Abloh’s artworks, designs for Off-White and Louis Vuitton, collaborations with the likes of Arthur Jafa and Takashi Murakami, and never-before-seen objects spanning two decades in the creative polymath’s career—placed, rather metaphorically, on raw-wood architectural tables of his own making—but also to exit through the gift shop, “Church & State” (the name stylized in Abloh’s oft-used, Duchamp-ian quotation marks).

It was conceived by Abloh as an extension of “Figures of Speech.” Inside, you’ll find hoodies, hats, totes, notebooks, posters, keychains, and more—all of which Abloh designed back in 2019 exclusively for the Brooklyn Museum show—displayed on the same tables used in the exhibition. After all, as stated on a column at the entrance, “Abloh made little distinction between art and commerce.”

The shop has been dropping new and exclusive merchandise throughout the show’s run, such as limited-edition Pyrex Tears shorts that sold out within a week and a Jim Joe tee that went within an hour. (The sixth and final drop is set to happen early next month, in collaboration with Futura.)

But this leather flap bag from Off-White is among our favorites. It is embossed with an architectural drawing of “social sculpture,the wooden house that anchors the show, which has hosted panel talks and performances featuring Black creatives and Abloh collaborators on the second Sunday of each month.

Abloh designed the house in the ethos of what the artist David Hammons called “Negritude architecture,” countering the historic lack of space afforded to Black people in cultural institutions. He literally made space for his community in the center of the museum’s Great Hall—and then naturally, a handbag to match.

The Off-White FOS 04 Architecture Flap Bag is available for purchase in store and online, priced at $1,485.


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