Talking Cheap Art with Actor Turned Artist Leo Fitzpatrick
The former "Kids" star has now made a name for himself by opening galleries where none of the artwork is for sale.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sweden.
Twenty years ago, Leo Fitzpatrick played Telly—New York's scariest teenage Casanova—in Larry Clark's Kids. Since then he's snatched up some pretty coveted acting gigs in things like Bully and The Wire—both of which are cult classics in their own right.
But acting isn't Leo's main priority these days; Thanks to his (and fellow artist Nate Lowman's) gallery projects Home Alone and Home Alone 2, he's managed to carve out a name for himself in the art world—both as a gallerist and as an artist. Home Alone's concept is pretty simple: To draw a clear line between art and money by purposely never selling any of the works on display.
I recently met up with Leo at one of his shows in Stockholm to chat about art, doing things for the right reasons, and being recognized as "that guy" from Kids.
VICE: What's with owning a gallery that doesn't actually sell anything?
Leo Fitzpatrick: I think art has gotten far too serious. It revolves around money way too much. You see a lot of work that looks very similar because that's the sort of work that sells. And once you start selling artwork you stop experimenting as much, because you know what will sell. You stop challenging yourself.
So Home Alone is about forcing artists to experiment?
The whole point was to get rid of the money aspect and just focus on the art again. These days we are so aware of the artist's popularity that we often forget to take in the art.
How did you make it all work financially?
You just lose money. I mean, in New York, we lost $20,000 in one year. Luckily, I was in a position where I needed a tax write-off, so that's how I could justify it. But when I was no longer in that position we had to close the gallery and think of a new way to go about it.
I really hope that young folks who want to open galleries don't compare themselves to big, "real" galleries. If you have access to a pizza shop, do it in a fucking pizza shop. You know, like, where do young people like to hang out? Bars. Do an art show in your local bar—you don't have to have a "gallery" to show art.
Have you managed to build a reputation around that? I mean, are people approaching you to talk about their new art spaces?
Yeah! It's funny. Because of Instagram, you can talk to people all over the world. There was this guy from London who wrote to me saying, "Oh man, I really wish you'd do a Home Alone in London!" And I said, "Well, Home Alone is just an idea. YOU can open a Home Alone in London." You know, we can have Home Alones all over the world. I don't own Home Alone—it's an idea. A really simple idea. You just have to act on it and that's what is difficult.
The other day I was walking down the street in New York, and this young fellow asked me: "You're Leo Fitzpatrick, right?" And I nodded, thinking he was going to talk to me about movies but instead he said, "I really like your gallery!" To me, that was a great moment because it meant that what I do is working. That kids liked our gallery—and that's who we're doing it for. We aren't doing it for rich people wearing suits. We are doing it for the people who can only afford a can of beer but don't have a place to drink it. Come to our gallery—you can drink it here!
When I was young there were galleries in New York where you'd just go and hang out. Whether or not you bought art or cared about the art, it didn't matter. That was where you hung out—at art galleries. And I don't think that exists so much anymore in New York. Which is a shame because musicians, artists, and skateboarders—they need a place to hang out and talk. And why not do that at an art gallery as opposed to a bar?
So where did you hang out when you were younger?
There was a gallery called American Fine Arts and they showed really weird people. The director was this guy named Colin de Land. He was kind of an artist himself. There was great energy around that gallery. People wanted to hang out there, and it wasn't just artists—it was everybody.
So do you ever buy art?
Yeah, but I'm very cheap. I have a small art collection. When I was 17, I bought my first painting from this guy, Chris Johanson. It cost $300 and it took me like three months to pay him. That was 20 years ago, and that painting is still on my wall. It was the one thing I ever did right with money. I just bought it with my gut. Sneakers and music go out of fashion after a while. So yeah, I buy art, but I only buy art I like.
Related: An interview with Harmony Korine:
Are you sick of hearing about Kids?
No. As long as people are cool about it, I don't mind. Sometimes when people get drunk and pester me, that's a little annoying. But if people are like, "Hey, I like that movie!" I don't mind. It's not something I'm ashamed of or that I'm overly proud of. It's something I did in high school. It's weird that people still care about it 20 years later. To me, that's what's weird. That it still has a life. Because, to me, it feels very old.
But you do see why it's iconic?
No. I just feel like maybe nobody had made a film like that before, with actual teenagers. Everything that Larry Clark does, he seeks the approval of the teenager. He doesn't care about what the adults think. His main concern is what's authentic to teenagers.
That's similar to what you're doing with art.
I guess so. At the moment we are selling his prints for $100. So it's funny that when I was 16, he took a chance on me and put me in a movie when I'd never acted before. It was through Larry that I was introduced to art. It's funny that we're still working together—25 years later. But now, I'm helping him do a project. His print show started in my gallery.
At the beginning, we hadn't told anyone it was happening. Except for a few skaters, because we knew that the skaters would all tell each other. But we didn't want some rich person coming in, buying all the photos. He only wanted the kids to own the art. Larry is such a fucking teenager at heart that sometimes I feel like the adult. But it's really admirable. It's really weird to hear people think that he's sketchy or something, because all he wants is to be a teenager. How many older artists are making stuff that teenagers will pay attention to? Most 70-year-olds are retired. He's still going to skateparks, meeting new kids to get ideas. He makes me feel old.
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