Graffiti Artist Futura Discusses His New Space-Themed Exhibition In Hong Kong
Widely recognised for bringing numerous public art installations across Asia, graffiti artist Futura (or Leonard Hilton McGurr) has been in the scene as early as the 1970s. The American artist caught the attention of many in the 1980s when he established himself as a leading voice alongside a wider art movement that included Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.
Futura takes pride in being self-taught in what he calls, "the subway school", with his works being exhibited in notable museums from MoCA in Los Angeles, MoMA in New York to Palais de Tokyo. He's also no stranger to collaborating with brands which include Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Nike and Off-White.
Now, the artist is back in Hong Kong to debut Futuraland, his largest public installation to date. Tatler caught up with Futura about this new exhibition, why he chose Hong Kong and why he had to be here in person for the installation.
Congratulations on your Futuraland installation! How’s it teaming up with AllRightsReserved (ARR) to make this happen?
It’s been fantastic. It’s an honour working with SK Lam and his team at AllRightsReserved. We have been working on this project (from concept to reality) for nearly two year and the production/launch of Futuraland has exceeded all expectations.
This is your largest publication installation to date, did you specifically choose Hong Kong for this?
The choice of Hong Kong is a byproduct of proximity and timing. However, I do have a strong connection to Hong Kong and consider the city one of my “adopted second-homes”. I first visited in 1975 as a 19-year old in the Navy and I have been coming back ever since. I have great memories and friends here.
Are there any reasons for choosing Landmark Hong Kong for showcasing Futuraland?
Back in the 80s, I was invited to Hong Kong with a group of graffiti writers and we stayed at the Furama Hotel in Central. I remember having to always pass by the Landmark on my way to eat at Tsui Wah. When ARR suggested the Landmark, it seemed like an appropriate and natural location for the X-6000 Rocketship to land.
Can you tell us what makes this installation different from your previous ones?
The scale and scope. This is the biggest installation I have ever imagined with a six-metre tall rocket ship surrounded with my latest character, the FL-006, an alien-like sculptural form.
For the works featured in this installation, can you tell us what the creative process was like?
Futuraland is an extension of my character universe and the subsequent arrival here on planet Earth. AllRightsReserved took my vision and blew it up to a scale that I didn’t think would be possible—it's also the first time that every single (art) piece is realized in a three-dimensional form.
Has it been difficult to make art during the pandemic?
Quite the contrary. It’s actually been easy to create in this new environment. Somehow, the universe told us to stop, slow down, and take time to think about stuff. I also moved into a new studio in Brooklyn and the new space has allowed me to create more freely.
Your name is an ode to the potential of the future. We’ve come a long way when it comes to technological advances and space exploration, how do you feel about where we are now and what are your thoughts for the future?
I don’t think much about the past as I press on into the future. Creativity has no boundaries or expiration date. I also embrace new technology, which allows me to expand and realize my imaginations.
How do you deal with lulls in inspiration and creative setbacks?
I try and keep myself in the positive arena, and avoid being complacent. And I also avoid being greedy. I always like to say “Keep it Moving!”
So many artists from overseas who held exhibitions in Hong Kong couldn’t be there in person but you went through quarantine to be here in person. How important is it for you (or for artists in general) to be able to see your work in person and also greet your visitors?
It was very, very important for me to be here for this. Despite the quarantine protocols, this is also my first trip anywhere since the pandemic hit. It should say something about my commitment to the project. I'm so happy about all of this.
How has your creative style changed over the years? Or if not, why hasn’t it changed?
I have been a constant force of change and transition. I say adapt and evolve, which keeps your internal atom spinning.
What do you want visitors to take out of this exhibition?
Images and memories.
Futuraland runs from June 3–16 at Atrium G/F, Landmark, Central from 10 am to 8 pm. A pop-up store at Shop 2, Belowground Basement, Landmark is also happening from June 4–16 from 11 am to 8 pm