Legendary graffitist turned contemporary artist Futura (or Leonard Hilton McGurr) is back in Hong Kong with his latest creation, the X-6000.
The six-meter tall rocket ship, in the center of FUTURALAND, a space-themed exhibition, also the artist’s largest public installation to date, is on view at LANDMARK from now until June 16.
The Value caught up with Futura at the debut of the exhibition, where he talked about the inspiration behind FUTURALAND, fond memories with contemporaries such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and the shift in the art industry.
Futura at the debut of FUTURALAND
From covering subway trains in New York with graffitis in the 1980s, to emerging above ground from the “Subway School,” as the 66-year-old artist puts in, Futura’s works are seen in major museums such as MoCA in Los Angeles, MoMa in New York, and most recently, Palais de Tokyo.
One of his most instantly recognizable characters, the Pointman sculpture, is also featured in the exhibition, in the form of seven FL-006 alien-like renditions in silver. The metallic sculpture each stands 1.8 meters tall and are showcased next to the spaceship at FUTURALAND, organized by Hong Kong-based creative studio, AllRightsReserved (ARR).
FUTURALAND, featuring the six-meter tall spaceship X-6000, now on display at LANDMARK, Hong Kong
What brings you back to Hong Kong and how was quarantine?
Futura: It’s the friendship between ARR and me over the last few years. The fact that ARR has been working with Brian Donelly, aka KAWS, who’s a good friend of mine. My vessel has landed here in Hong Kong and my characters are here. Whether it’s FL-006 in this transparent form or the small metallic version we see in the window, or the large figures, they are the most advanced creatures from my universe. They’re happy to be here in Hong Kong.
The show has actually been delayed for more than a year as a result of recent events. But I’m really committed to this and was ready for whatever the commitment it took to get through the Hong Kong protocol to be here with everyone for this. The two-week quarantine was quite easy, I’ll be honest. It’s mind over matter, right? There’s no use crying over spilled milk. I just saw that as a very long flight, maybe from the Moon, where I’d want my rocketship to take me to, after the pandemic.
(Left) FL-006 transparent Pointman figure | HK$15,300 / US$1,950
(Right) X-6000 aluminium sculpture set | HK$34,500 / US$4,400
What was the inspiration behind FUTURALAND?
Futura: I want to introduce people to who I am, and my body of work. I want people to be interested enough to walk through a public space like this and spend time with us. Of course I would like to get people to become familiar with the idea behind my characters and the perception in a playful way. The FUTURALAND project with this spaceship and the alien figures help tell that kind of playful story - kind of my own fantasy as far as the characters.
Being from Manhattan - though I’ve been in Brooklyn for more than half of my life, so I’m kind of like a Brooklyn guy now - I didn’t know anything beyond five blocks away from where I lived. So I got really fascinated by anything that is “global” to me - maps, stamps, and designs of money etc.
Of course the role of sci-fi movies too. Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a direction for me; and “Planet of the Apes” - both films were from 1968, when I was 13. As a child, these things were very big, powerful and amazing. I’ve also used the 1979 movie “Alien” as a reference too, that was the kind of genesis of the idea of FL-006.
Movies have always been a source of inspiration for me. Back when I was younger, there was not much to be excited about. I remember seeing “Planet of the Apes” and thought “Wow, that’s such a cool story!” I think films have always been a learning curve, and before Discovery Channel, a discovery channel.
Closer look at X-6000, featuring Atoms motifs
One of the FL-006 metallic sculptures at FUTURALAND
Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring were two of your contemporaries. What was it like during that time and what were they like?
Futura: Fantastic guys; friends of mine, and I miss them all the time. It’s been more than 30 years since I’ve lost my friends. Many of my friends like Remellzee, Dondi White, PHASE 2, and Stay High 149 are no longer here and it’s very sad.
Basquiat, Haring, and myself were all there in the 1980s. We were kind of arriving and emerging. The mid-80s was the pinnacle of that era. It was also when Basquiat had his first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Back then we had no artists of color - meaning black or minority artists in a kind of "white men world." I think Jean broke down many barriers. When you look at the recent auction prices of his works, while it’s not Da Vinci, the recognition is up there. I feel blessed to have known guys like them. Maybe they’re my angels looking out for me.
FUTURALAND x Futura Laboratories pop-up store with the artist’s collaborations with Off-White, Billionaire Boys Club, and SILLYTHING
Graffiti was a creative outlet for you when you first started. Do you think the current graffiti artists do that for fame and money?
Futura: I mean, we all have to survive. Life is somewhat transactional, meaning that when you work, there’s a financial reward. But I also encourage people not to let the paycheque be the motivation behind what you do. Be passionate. If you do something that you love, it’s difficult to call it work. To me, what’s rewarding is the interaction with my audience. And the fact that I can interact with them, have a conversation, and let people figure out me as a person and not this identity, or this public figure they’ve come to hear about.
Limited-edition Futura Laboratories Capsule Collection available at FUTURALAND pop-up store
More art galleries and auction houses began to pay attention to street art. What’s your thought on the ongoing dynamics?
Futura: It's been a bit of a balance of which world that I’m really in. I don't want to be defined by a label, like street art, graffiti art, whatever. I mean, I'm just a creative individual. I think I’m quite diverse. I live in a kind of commercial space, at the same time I live in a fine art space.
I think these transitions and diversity we see in the market shows that it’s possible to be on both ends of the spectrum. In the 80s, with Keith, Jean and these artists, if it was in the gallery, it wasn’t graffiti. But if it was in the street, it wasn't art. Somewhere there’s a contradiction - I don’t understand exactly where, but it doesn’t sound right. I’m happy to see this kind of revolution, or more accurately, a creative evolution.
Dates: June 3 - 16, 2021
Time: 10am - 8pm
Public installation: G/F, LANDMARK ATRIUM, Central, Hong Kong
Pop-up store: Shop 2, BELOWGROUND, Basement, LANDMARK ATRIUM, Central, Hong Kong
Online raffle for X-6000 Sculpture Box Set, edition of 150