A Conversation with Berlin-based Visual Artist Tony Futura

When Berlin-based art director Tony Futura made an Instagram account back in 2013, it was hardly a career move. Joining for his own entertainment, the 29-year-old’s posts — art, rather — soon caught the attention of tens of thousands of Instagram users, Guy Hepner Gallery, and Google, most recently, for its #limitlessme campaign. Now amassing over 139K followers, perhaps it’s Futura’s rawness or his enlivening wit that makes his art so lovable.

Born in the countryside of East Germany when the wall was still intact, Futura was enticed by Berlin’s electrifying allure after high school. His career in art and concept design launched soon after graduating from the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam and he now works at DOJO Werbeagentur with brands such as Coca-Cola and Red Bull. A flourishing creative, Futura finds inspiration from everything around him and all that he consumes.

Lighthearted and visually intoxicating, Futura’s art gives simple images a playful disposition. Often poking fun at materialism and Western culture, his work is also known to be charged with sexual or political energy. As a huge fan, I’m over the moon to be saying this — meet Tony Futura:

How did you get into visual art?

I have always been very interested in creating visual artwork… from being a child, where I was more into drawing than into toy cars, to starting with graffiti when I was about 14 years old… until I got to study communication design at 23. I had a strong focus on graphic design and advertising, discovering that I have a lot of fun thinking about conceptional artworks and visual statements in simple images. This is really what drives me and what keeps me searching all the time.

Since then, I’ve been working in advertising as an art director, now at a senior level, but I don’t consider myself a designer anymore since I mainly work on concepts on an idea level rather than execute them as artworks. But I still do this a lot for myself in my free time. And this is how I started my Instagram channel.

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Of everywhere I’ve been, I’ve never seen an art scene as vibrant or cutting-edge as Berlin’s. What is it like to be an art director and artist in such a creative city, and how has living in Berlin influenced your work?

It is awesome, really. Berlin is a huge source of inspiration for me. Personally, I really need to be in a place that feels like home. I wasn’t born in Berlin, but it is one of the few places I call “home.” The people are more down to earth here, life is more easy-going and honest. But, it is also changing pretty fast. The good thing is that there are so many creative people from all over the world visiting and living in Berlin, that the city gets huge input through them. From Designers to street artists and art shows, it’s just beautiful to see how positively this effects Berlin, its people, and me.

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How has social media, namely Instagram, played a role in evolving your career?

I never planned to make a career out of my Instagram activities. I started this to find a new challenge for me, seeing how much stuff I would be able to produce and how many ideas I would be able to find. I get bored pretty easily, so I really needed this to be something just for me. But after a while, I recognized that more and more people were starting to follow my works and, also, that other people get what I make and what I mean by it.

Since my Instagram made its way through the net and blogs, websites, videos and interviews on smaller and bigger magazines, I slowly start to feel like it could be something people know somehow, I mean who I am and what I do. Companies are asking for collaborations, I get offers to take part in art shows and collabs with other artists. But I’m not somebody who thinks that far into the future, I just try to do the very next step right and see what’s coming next.

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Can you tell me a bit about your collaboration with Google for the Pixel launch at the Koenig Gallery? How did they reach out to you, and what was the experience like?

Yes, they contacted me through a PR agency some months ago and I was asked if I could imagine working together with google. I said, “yes, I mean, I use google all the time. What is it about?” And they told me that they were releasing their very own Google smartphone, and that they would really love to have me as a creative partner.

Since the topic of the campaign was called #limitlessme, I was asked to think about something that could show this in a visual way. And that’s how I came to propose a pencil shaped like an infinity symbol.

It has been a very nice and productive collaboration. I had only worked with a very few number of brands before, and the google/PR agency team made it quite easy for me, helping me to organize the production of my artwork and the exhibition. It was my  very first time producing one of my ideas as a real art piece. Seeing it as a sculpture on a exhibition with over a thousand guests was an amazing feeling, and I felt quite happy receiving such positive feedback on this.

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October, 2016: Tony Futura’s “Infinite Pencil” on display at Koenig Gallery, one of Berlin’s most prominent contemporary art galleries.

What are some of your favorite visual magazines and/or Instagram accounts?

I really dig the works of @brockdavis, he has been a huge inspiration for my work since I began publishing on instagram. Also, @fra_vullo and everything of Pierpaolo Ferrari and Maurizio Cattelan. I love the concepts of their works a lot, and also the visual style is something that quite matches my preferences of a good image. If you don’t know them, I definitely recommend them.

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What helps you be creative? 

For me in particular, it is time. If you have enough time to think, you’ll going to find the answers you’re searching for. Creativity is just asking the right questions and solving them in a new way. I really would love to have a day with 12+ more hours, so i can do all the things i don’t have time for.

Music is also a good way for me to get into a relaxed mood, but I wouldn’t say that this is a source of inspiration for me. I love to listen to The Clash a lot, also every kind of 90’s boom-bap East Coast rap I can find, and old 70’s-80’s rock music. I also play video games a lot, they clean my head from everyday stress and help me solve problems in my own way.

I think my head just needs entertainment, I need to see a lot of stuff to know about it so that I’m able to remix and combine concepts and ideas I can create from. In the end, everything we create is made from everything we saw, heard, felt and learned in our past. So I try to keep the input coming.

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Going forward, what are some of your goals as an artist in 2017?

I don’t know, as I said, I don’t really make plans. I see what tomorrow brings and what would be the right step for me. Making some stuff for group exhibitions and producing some more sculptures from the concepts I have done last year, that would be great I guess. But who knows?

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“Low Class” by Tony Futura.

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A self-portrait of the artist. For more, check out Tony Futura’s Instagram, his interview with Plastik Magazine, or his prints available for sale via Guy Hepner Gallery.

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