In 1974, whilst serving in the US Navy, a young Lennard Hilton McGurr (aka Futura 2000 aka Futura aka Lenny) landed in Singapore aboard the USS Constellation supercarrier. Lennard would subsequently go on to make a name for himself as Futura, changing the game over the course of his legendary career with his abstract style and unique approach to art and collaboration culture. Fast forward to 2019, he found himself back in Singapore last week with his first ever solo art exhibition of original works in Southeast Asia – aptly titled CONSTELLATION.
FUTURA LABORATORIES IS BACK AFTER 8 YEARS
One of the unexpected things that happened along the way in bringing this solo art show to life is that Futura’s streetwear label, Futura Laboratories, has made a return after an 8 year hiatus.
“Why am I bringing it back? Well, because there was no Instagram 8 years ago. Today the marketplace dictates that maybe I’m not gonna do it the way I did it before, maybe I’m not gonna be a global company, maybe I’m going to be able to sell to kids around the planet without a hassle. Then somehow we found Dover Street Market – and it was only meant to be with DSM Singapore – to coincide with this show. We approached them, then we met DSM global in the UK and they’re like, we’d love to carry it, so BOOM – FL is back!
Different production network and different everything – a kind of reinvention of the brand. At least now I can bring the gear to market and most people can have access to it without flippers or secondary whatever or I-bought-it-in-Japan-and-now-let-me-sell-it-to- somebody-in-Korea-or-China-or-Africa-or-South-America-at-some-inflated-price. That happens, that is always gonna happen but at least now I feel like the stuff can be more available. I can sell more directly to people and I’m already doing that now with the shopify Futura archive space that I created where I’m selling prints and lanyards.”
TRYING TO CIRCUMVENT RESELLING
“You know a couple of weeks ago I sold a bunch of lanyards, then yesterday I checked Ebay and some kid is flipping one for 250 pounds, I fuckin’ sold it for 12 bucks! That is fuckin’ outrageous, that’s not right, I don’t care what the fuck … This thing angers me because it shows the greed that people have, which to me is unacceptable. So how can I circumvent that, how can I stop people from doing that? Well I can’t, but I can do the best I can to provide something to someone at a reasonable and fair price.
Sure, whatever some young entrepreneur or hustler asshole wants to do is out of my realm, but if I get a chance to talk about them I wanna blow them up and say that’s fucking whack. I don’t respect anybody that does that, I mean if I sell it for 12 and you wanna flip it for 30, then good guy, cool, I applaud you. Go get a lunch, go get your chick some sanitary napkins, I don’t care what, but don’t sell them for 270 or 400 dollars … it’s obscene, it’s gross. As much as I’m trying to do the right thing, I can’t control what I can’t control, so if a positive message is coming from me I hope that most people get it and they know what side of the fence I’m on – which is like, the right side.
Like a couple of weeks ago I sent out all these lanyards, 12 dollars a piece plus shipping, I had 200 pieces available and 167 sold, 33 didn’t who cares. I opened the store on Friday, closed it on Saturday and on Sunday me and my girl did all the fulfilment in terms of the packing, stuffing them all in nice little envelopes, printing the labels, signing the back of every one, just like giving you guys something – Hello, it’s from me to you. This shows those individuals what kind or person I am, it’s about direct communication with people. More artists should be listening to that and handle their fan base or deal with the people that are their consumers on a more humane level, rather than I don’t give a fuck I just want money.”
USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO ENGAGE FANS
Direct communication with people is something Futura has embraced. Unlike many of his peers in the art world, he has been an early adopter of the internet and social media. Long time fans could find him on photo sharing site Flickr back in the day, and now he has moved on to Instagram to engage his fans. Be mindful of what you say though and don’t be surprised if Lenny leaves a little comment on one of your posts, as he truly gets the “social” part of social media and approaches it in his own unique way.
“If somebody references a movie or says something that strikes my fancy, I will take 15 minutes to scroll through their stuff and get to the bottom of their feed. Even if it’s 817 or 1600 images, I will go all the way to the bottom and write something really cool on that first or second photo they put up 4 years ago. Well, you know what I did to get to that photo, and thats the beauty of Instagram in that it’s very intrusive and very exposed in that you’re looking at all kinds of peoples information, but you can also knock them over the head with that type of engagment and interaction. So just based on a little clever comment, I will take the time to acknowledge that comment, but it’s also not on your first image where everyone has access to and normally just defaults to. Theres no power in that, but the one from 4 years ago thats like … hmmm … thats different.
If someone did that to me I would be like, oh damn dude, you really went digging in the crates! So why not do that, why not be kind, gentle and give someone attention and give someone time? This is important for young people because the problem is their own community isn’t even doing that – their own boys even. I may scroll all the way back to an image but there are only 3 comments there. I’m sorry I don’t even know you but it makes me sad to think that your own people aren’t even in on you, and here I am.”
IS THERE A RETIREMENT PLAN IN THE WORKS?
At 63, you would think that Futura would have some sort of retirement plan and be taking it easy, well he says: “Fuck all that I’m just going to keep on moving. I’m trying to get another quarter century and that would put me close to 90 … ahhhh I might want more than a quarter … gimme 35 … so if I can get to 90-100, I’ve got 40 more years to possibly do stuff. That to me is very inspiring, as there’s no cut off, the shelf life on me is whenever that expiration date pops up, but I’m not thinking about that, I’m just thinking about tomorrow and reflecting on yesterday, but the reflection of yesterday makes for a better tomorrow”.
UPCOMING STUFF TO WATCH OUT FOR
“We’re on the verge of it getting really hype right now. Like this is dope and in the next month shits gonna fuckin’ explode. This shit that I’m doing with Virgil that no one even knows about and I cant even really reveal – well there it is, I just teased it – once that pops people are just gonna go bananas.”
Thanks to The Culture Story for providing us with the interview opportunity and Uncle Lenny for his time!