Pret-a-Reporter

Why Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea Can't Buy His Favorite Artist's Sculpture

Spencer Lowell
Thomas Houseago and Flea

Thomas Houseago and the bassist have become close friends: "There's this animal violence to Thomas' work, but it's also gentle and beautiful and vulnerable," Flea says

This story first appeared in the Dec. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Many of artist Thomas Houseago's works are too massive to fit in anyone's home. "I wanted to get a piece like six months ago and I didn't have a place to put it," says the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, who tracked down the artist through Houseago's Beverly Hills gallery, Gagosian, a few years back after seeing images online of his work.

See more Neil Patrick Harris and Flea With Their Favorite Artists

Houseago, a 42-year-old Brit who moved to L.A. in 2003, is known for his sculptures of primordial humanoid figures. He came to international attention at the 2010 Whitney Biennial with a huge crouching figure simply titled Baby. Through Jan. 17, his 1,600-square-foot Moun Room, an interactive installation of chambers and screens, is on view at New York's Hauser & Wirth gallery. And in the spring, he'll display five enormous masks at Rockefeller Center. "You'll be able to go in and look at the city through their eyes," says the artist.

Flea, 52, has become a close friend. At their first meeting, the two talked for three hours. "I was like, 'Oh, he's a brother.' With Flea, it was just straight up," recalls Houseago, who says the Chili Peppers' hit song "Californication" was "in my system" when he first made his way west. Quite coincidentally, Houseago this year bought a house that Flea once owned, a residence known as The Castle in Los Feliz, where "Californication" was written.

"It was pure chance. I had no idea it used to be Flea's house," says Houseago, a supporter of the nonprofit Silverlake Conservatory of Music, which Flea co-founded. To support his friend's school, Houseago donated a mask sculpture for a benefit auction in November, which was bought by the musician's bandmate Anthony Kiedis. "There's this animal violence to Thomas' work, but it's also gentle and beautiful and vulnerable," says Flea of the art he hopes to have room for someday soon. "It works on so many levels."

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