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Fashion

Futura: The New York-Based Graffiti Artist Who Lives Up To The Hype

With a steady stream of personal and collaborative projects and Virgil Abloh as an ardent follower, who better than Futura to school us on the evolution of street art and its intersection with fashion?

futura

 

Futura (real name: Leonard Hilton McGurr) would make a successful influencer, and it’s not just because he’s already got the catchy alias to match. In town for the opening of Constellation – his first solo exhibition in South-east Asia that ran at private art salon The Culture Story till early June – he’s a natural in front of the camera. Zero awkwardness and zero airs;  just plain, relaxed cool in his street style-worthy uniform of discreetly chic streetwear staples: beanie, black-rimmed glasses, subtly logoed tee, cargos and sneakers.

For all its randomness (snapshots of his paintings, cityscapes, assemblages of objects ranging from remote controls to Lotso plush toys, and pop culture icons including one Off-White bodysuited Celine Dion at Paris Fashion Week), his Instagram account (@futuradosmil) is a tight, tasteful edit of visual ephemera for the street art and graphic design crowd. Laconic, often playful captions typed exclusively in upper case add to its offbeat appeal (he accompanied the Celine Dion photo with a single word: “TITANIC”, to which Virgil Abloh – an active follower – commented with a rowboat emoji).

Like many a post-millennial, he is in person vocal and articulate, answering questions at length, but the man is far from your typical Gen Z – he is 63. And all that charisma and social media-friendly savvy have been honed through a decades-spanning career in the street art scene that started before most of the chieftains of Hypebeast culture and Instagram were born.

If the late Karl Lagerfeld was fashion’s exemplary renaissance man, Futura can be considered the street art equivalent. That he’s outlived equally seminal peers like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat has sure helped with that title.

Born and bred in New York, he found fame in the ’80s as a young downtown scenester with a unique, abstract brand of graffiti art. Evolving over time into a sought-after gallery artist, graphic designer and fashion collaborator with that signature hand, he has worked with everyone from Brit punk rock band The Clash to Levi’s, Nike and Supreme, and introduced his own streetwear label Futura Laboratories in the early 2000s. (Put on hiatus for years, the latter was officially relaunched during his recent visit here under the auspices of Dover Street Market.)

In short, when it comes to living artists at the crossroads of fashion and street culture, he is – to quote Run-DMC – the baddest of the bad, the coolest of the cool. And here’s what he wants you to know about him and the scene now.

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