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Louis Vuitton star designer Virgil Abloh dies at 41 after private battle with cancer

Virgil Abloh, the American-born son of Ghanaian immigrants who became fashion’s highest profile Black designer and the creative mind behind Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections, died on Sunday at age 41, following a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer.
Abloh, who also worked as a DJ and visual artist, had been men’s artistic director for Vuitton, the world’s biggest luxury brand, since March 2018.

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Abloh founded the Italian luxury streetwear label Off-White, in which LVMH took a 60 percent stake earlier this year. He was a former collaborator with rapper and fashion designer Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, who dedicated his latest Sunday Service to Abloh, according to
“Virgil was not only a genius designer, a visionary, he was also a man with a beautiful soul and great wisdom,” Bernard Arnault, the billionaire boss of Luis Vuitton’s owner, French fashion conglomerate LVMH, said in a statement on Sunday.
Born in 1980 near Chicago, Abloh and his sister were raised in Rockford, Illinois. According to a 2018 Vogue magazine profile, his mother Eunice Abloh, a seamstress, taught him the basics of the craft at a young age.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he completed a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Abloh and Ye became interns at Fendi in Rome, and made the rounds at Paris Fashion Week. By 2010, Abloh worked as creative director for Ye’s creative agency, Donda. He also designed album covers for Ye’s “Yeezus” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
His arrival at LVMH in 2018 marked the marriage between streetwear and high-end fashion, mixing sneakers and camouflage pants with tailored suits and evening gowns. His influences included graffiti art, hip hop and skateboard culture.
The style was embraced by the group as it sought to breathe new life into some labels and attract younger customers.
A prolific globe-trotter, Abloh generated buzz around products outside the world of fashion, ranging from Ikea door mats that read “Keep Off” to Moet & Chandon champagne bottles and Evian water.
Abloh eased up his pace slightly in 2019, citing health issues, and he was absent from an Off-White fashion show that year.
In July, LVMH expanded his role, giving him a mandate to launch new brands and partner with existing ones in a variety of sectors beyond fashion. For his label’s first runway display in more than a year, as activities resumed in Paris following months of pandemic lockdowns, Abloh offered his audience a performance from British rapper Maya Arulpragasam, known as M.I.A, dancing with her on stage at the end.
Abloh drew on messages of inclusivity and gender-fluidity to expand the Louis Vuitton label’s popularity, weaving themes of racial identity into his fashion shows with poetry performances and art installations.
With an eye to reaching Asian consumers grounded by the coronavirus pandemic, the designer sent his collections of colorful suits and utilitarian-flavored outerwear off to Shanghai last summer, when many labels cancelled fashion shows.
Cameroonian handbag designer Wilglory Tanjong said on Instagram, “Virgil Abloh’s existence was so resounding that it paved the way for other Black designers like myself. And for that, I am forever grateful.”
Abloh travelled to Doha weeks ago as the Qatar Museums unveiled “Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech,” a mid-career retrospective. The exhibit was shown in 2019 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Abloh is survived by his wife, Sannon, his children Lowe and Grey, his sister, Edwina, and his parents, Nee and Eunice. According to The New York Times, Abloh died in Chicago.
“For over two years, Virgil valiantly battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer, cardiac angiosarcoma,” said a message posted to his Instagram account. “He chose to endure his battle privately since his diagnosis in 2019, undergoing numerous challenging treatments, all while helming several significant institutions that span fashion, art, and culture.”

Read more: French fashion designer Pierre Cardin dies aged 98

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Ahead of ‘Succession’ finale, uncertainty about outcomes for its sparring siblings

There’s no Iron Throne, but the stakes feel just as high.

“Succession,” the critically acclaimed drama chronicling a Murdoch-esque feuding billionaire family, wraps its four-season run on Sunday with a highly anticipated 88-minute finale.

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And just like another tentpole HBO show, “Game of Thrones,” there’s no shortage of theories over how the series will end and who will prevail. But instead of a throne, the Roy siblings are battling over the sprawling Waystar Royco media empire.

The Shakespearean-level intrigue has prompted speculation among fans looking for clues in past episodes, characters’ names and elsewhere.

Even the final episode’s title, “With Open Eyes,” has critics poring through the John Berryman poem that has been used for each season finale’s title.

Here are some of the questions that remain as the finale nears.

Where do things stand with the Roy family?

“Succession” has been about who will ultimately run the media conglomerate founded by Logan Roy, the belligerent and profane Roy family patriarch played by Brian Cox.

For most of the series, three siblings have been vying for the crown: Kendall, played by Jeremy Strong; Roman, played by Kieran Culkin; and Shiv, played by Sarah Snook. A fourth sibling — Connor, played by Alan Ruck — instead mounted an ill-fated run for president.

By the end of season three, the siblings had buried their differences enough to attempt a corporate coup of their father — only to be betrayed by Shiv’s husband Tom Wambsgans, played by Matthew Macfadyen.

The series’ most shocking twist came early this season, when Logan died on his way to close a deal with GoJo, a tech company.

Logan’s death and the power vacuum it created have led to renewed struggle among the siblings, with Kendall and Roman hoping to block the GoJo deal.

Who will prevail?

Show creator Jesse Armstrong told The New Yorker earlier this year “there’s a promise in the title of ‘Succession,’” a sign that there’ll be some certainty at least on this question.

The finale could live up to Logan’s statement in season 3 that life is “a fight for a knife in the mud.”

Kendall appeared in the penultimate episode to be on track to follow in his father’s footsteps, delivering an impromptu eulogy at Logan’s funeral after Roman was too grief-stricken to do so.

After aligning himself with the far-right presidential candidate Jeryd Mencken — who the Roy’s network questionably declared the winner — Roman’s fortunes appeared to be falling and was seen fighting with protesters in the streets in the final scenes.

Shiv, meanwhile is still trying to shepherd the GoJo deal with a plan she’s concocted that would install her as the company’s chief executive in the United States.

Connor, after losing every state and endorsing Mencken, is instead planning for his hoped-for ambassadorship.

There are a few wild cards that remain, in and outside the Roy family. The biggest one of all is Greg, the cousin and fan favorite played by Nicholas Braun, known for his awkward quotes and verbal abuse he endures from Tom.

Who won the election?

All of this is happening with the backdrop of an unsettled U.S. election that may have been swung to Mencken (Justin Kirk) with the help of the Roy’s cable network and a seemingly not-coincidental fire at a vote center in a swing state.

The scenario and the series’ Election Night episode has echoed the conversations revealed among Fox News executives and talent during the defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems that led to a nearly $800 million settlement with the network.

“Succession’s” fictional election results have both professional and personal implications for the Roy family, with protests over Mencken erupting throughout the city. But even Shiv seems willing to put her moral qualms aside at the prospect of making a deal with Mencken.

What about Tom and Shiv?

Tom and Shiv’s marriage had been on shaky ground before he betrayed her to Logan at the end of last season.

This season it’s even more so, with the two holding a no-holds-barred argument at a pre-election party where the two traded grievances and insults.

Shiv’s revelation to Tom on Election Night that she’s pregnant prompted one of the most gut-wrenching responses, with Tom asking her whether she was telling the truth or just using a new tactic against him.

The show continues to offer some signs of affection between the two, with Shiv telling an exhausted Tom to sleep at her apartment after the funeral, but it remains to be seen whether their marriage is salvageable.

Is this really the end?

There are plenty of examples of shows that lived on after their finales. “Game of Thrones” spawned a popular prequel series, “House of the Dragon,” while “Seinfeld” got a second try on its much-maligned finale on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Even “The Sopranos,” known for one of the buzziest finales of all time, came back with a movie looking at Tony Soprano’s beginning.

Armstrong has left open revisiting his character in another fashion, and the possibilities for doing so are endless. A Tom and Greg buddy comedy? Or maybe a Logan Roy origin story, just to reveal the first time he said his signature vulgar phrase.

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LACMA contemporary exhibition features Arab female artists and art from Middle East

One of the latest exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in the US features the art of Arab women from the Middle East.

The exhibition, Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East, takes visitors, through a stunning collection of art and artifacts, on a journey that explores the experiences, challenges, and triumphs of women in the Middle East.

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The exhibition curator and department head Linda Komaroff researched the work featured and acquired it to put together the exhibition she described as “special.”

Exhibition curator and department head Linda Komaroff. (Screengrab)

Exhibition curator and department head Linda Komaroff. (Screengrab)

“What curators do in museums is we acquire works, we research works, and we do special exhibitions like the one we’re standing in now,” she told Al Arabiya English.

One of the artists featured in the LACMA exhibition is Iraqi-born Los Angeles-based artist Hayv Kahraman.

She is known for her thought-provoking artwork that uses elongated figures and intricate patterns, where she creates a sense of ambiguity.

Her art challenges stereotypes and highlights the resilience and complexity of marginalized communities, making her a significant voice in contemporary art.

“We have four works by the Iraqi born US based artist Hayv Kahramen,” Komaroff. “She’s an artist whose practice really focuses on women and especially using herself as the prime figure in her painting.”

According to the curator, Kahraman primarily uses paint and sometimes watercolor in her art.

“And if you look at her work, you’ll see that the primary figure of the woman often looks very, very much the same and is kind of a classical Iraqi beauty,” Kmaroff added.

One of the pieces featured by the Iraqi artist is called Indian Poker, a card game.

Indian Poker, artwork by Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman, displayed in the LACMA exhibition. (Screengrab)

Indian Poker, artwork by Iraqi artist Hayv Kahraman, displayed in the LACMA exhibition. (Screengrab)

“I don’t know how to play,” the curator joked. “But it shows a woman that’s almost like a playing card and that there’s two of her and you could show it upside down and right side up. And she looks the same at the end.”

This exhibition showcases the diverse and dynamic ways in which women have defined themselves and each other throughout the history of the Middle East.

According to the curator, the exhibition is comprised of 75 works of art in a variety of media by 42 artists.

“Some of them were born in the Middle East, and some of them are part of diaspora communities in the US and Europe,” Komaroff said.

One of the latest exhibitions at LACMA features the art of Arab women from the Middle East. (Screengrab)

One of the latest exhibitions at LACMA features the art of Arab women from the Middle East. (Screengrab)

Visitors of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy the exhibition, which is filled with interactive displays, multimedia installations, and engaging programming.

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AI-powered monocle RizzGPT seeks to add sparkle to human conversations

If ChatGPT can help you write an essay or devise a meal plan, could it perhaps help you converse with other humans?
That’s what 22-year-old Stanford University computer science student Bryan Chiang was wondering earlier this year.

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So, he grabbed an augmented reality eyepiece and his laptop and recruited a few friends to code what he calls RizzGPT.
The eyepiece — a monocle designed by Brilliant Labs that is open-sourced so its firmware can be experimented with — features a camera, a microphone and an internal projector screen where words are displayed in front of the user’s eye.
When someone talks to the user, RizzGPT monitors the conversation through the microphone, transforms it to text, and sends it via WiFi to OpenAI’s artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT to generate a response. That response then appears af-ter a short delay on the small monocle screen.
“RizzGPT basically uses AI to provide you charisma on demand, and so it listens to your current ongoing conversation, and it tells you exactly what to say next,” said Chiang.
In a demonstration, Reuters asked Chiang: “What do you see as your biggest weakness?”
“I believe my biggest weakness is that I can be too hard on myself sometimes. I’m always striving to do my best and sometimes I can burn myself out,” Chiang read from the monocle after about five seconds.
The delay and the response is not yet very natural — or charimatic. But it is strictly a prototype, intended to show what may be possi-ble with the technology, Chiang said.
“It’s been a while since how we interact computers has changed,” he said. “You’re seeing the convergence of 5G
connectivity, AR glasses, the hardware, the intelligence coming together to basically create a new way of interacting with these systems, a new operating system in which it’s much more natural.”
The goal was not to replace natural human conversation entirely, he said.
“It’s merely meant as this sort of assistive aid to help you think about things that you might have forgotten… I think in that role it could be incredibly helpful for people who struggle with social anxiety and have difficulties, you know, talking to others.”

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