A transgender teen’s physical artwork and non-fungible tokens netted $2.16 million at auction at Christie’s on Wednesday.
“Hello, i’m Victor (FEWOCiOUS) and This Is My Life” included five lots by 18-year-old Victor Langlois, aka FEWOCiOUS, a rising star in the increasingly popular — and lucrative — world of NFT art.
An NFT is a blockchain-powered unit of data that authenticates ownership of digital objects — images, videos, songs, even tweets.
Each lot represents a year of Langlois' life between the ages of 14 and 18, as he began to understand his gender identity, transitioned and moved from Las Vegas to Seattle.
The series includes a physical painting, a video artwork sold exclusively as an NFT and a collection of physical and NFT doodles, drawings and journal entries from the corresponding year.
Upon request, Langlois will deliver the physical painting to the collector in a custom suitcase, Christie’s said in a statement, “an ode to how he transported his earliest drawings and paintings, when leaving behind his past in pursuit of a brighter future.”
The series reflects a traumatic period in Langlois’ life, amid what he describes as an abusive upbringing. After running away from home at age 12, he was raised by his grandmother, a single mom from El Salvador with three jobs and four kids.
"I think she struggled so much that she just wanted security," he told Christie’s. "To see me wanting to pursue art, she was like, 'What? Be a lawyer.' Which I understand. But it hurt when she would say, 'Your art is ugly and that’s why you can’t do it.'"
Langlois began drawing art on his iPad, he told Decrypt, because he wasn’t allowed paint. The first piece in “Hello, I’m Victor” is titled “Year 1, Age 14 — It Hurts to Hide.”
Last year, he began selling digital works on the NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway: He earned $25,000 for “Moment i Fell in Love” in November, enough to fund his move to Seattle, and rang in New Year’s 2021 with the NFT drop “Over-Analyzing Again,” which brought in $35,000.
Barely two months later, on March 6, his work “The EverLasting Beautiful” sold for $550,000.
Since getting into digital art barely a year ago, Langlois has earned just under $18 million. According to Christie’s, he’s also the youngest artist to have work sold through the legendary auction house.
“He went all out on this project and bared his beautiful soul for the world,” Christie’s digital art specialist Noah Davis said in a statement. “I hope his success shines bright for other young creative people who might be struggling with similar issues of identity and acceptance.”
On June 23, the first day of the auction, demand was so high it crashed the Christie’s website, Esquire reported. That success is particularly poignant, Langlois said, because too often trans artists are overlooked.
“Thank you so much for believing in me and my journey. It means the world,” he said in a tearful Instagram video Wednesday. “I put my everything into this, and I was so nervous to come out and to tell everyone who I am.”
The seven-figure sale is also a sign of NFTs' growing influence among auction houses and the art world in general: Sales of NFTs topped $2 billion in the first quarter of 2021, CNBC reported, with twice as many buyers as sellers.
In March, Christie’s set a record for digital art with the $69 million sale of "EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS," an NFT by multimedia artist Beeple.
“I think NFTs are the future,” Langlois told Reuters. “If you’re posting your art and sharing it with the world digitally, I think to offer a way for collectors to own it as a digital asset is just the next step.”
Just as the queer community has been at the forefront of many artistic movements, LGBTQ artists are quickly adopting the NFT model: In April, former YouTuber Chris Crocker transformed their infamous “Leave Britney Alone” video into an NFT that earned $44,000.
The day before Langlois’ auction closed, The Queenly NFT, which bills itself as "the first cryptogallery for queer creators," held its launch party at the former site of Andy Warhol’s Factory in Union Square in Manhattan, New York.
The inaugural collection includes more than 90 pieces — including works by trans singer Mila Jam, "RuPaul’s Drag Race" stars Manila Luzon and Bob the Drag Queen, gay nightlife photographer Wilsonmodels and lesbian photographer Lola Flash, whose work was just added to the permanent collection at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Brent Lomas, a New York drag performer also known as Ruby Powers, said he developed Queenly as a place for queer artists to get proper credit and compensation for their work, with LGBTQ-allied nonprofit organizations receiving a donation for every sale.
“Queer creators belong in every single space, and they deserve to take up space,” Lomas said. “They’re the ones creating the most explosive and powerful moments with their art. They’re the pioneers, showing people the world in a new way.”
This isn’t just a new kind of art, he added; it’s a new kind of patronage.
“Not every queer artist is going to have access to a place like Christie’s,” Lomas said. “Art should be democratizing, and NFTs allow artists to be in control of their work.”