At Large  October 25, 2021  Rina Rich Langer

Teenage NFT Artists Who Have Achieved Shocking Success

Christie's

FEWOCiOUS (B. 2003), Year 5, Age 18 - I Taught Myself How To Fly, Executed in 2021. Price Realized $375,000.

While most eleven-year-olds boys were playing Minecraft and chatting on Discord, artist Justin Bodnar, who goes by the name jstngraphics, was experimenting in the graphic design field before switching to digital art and NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) at age seventeen.

Children who grew up on social media and meme culture have taken to the online art world organically. In said art world, NFTs are like physical collector’s items only digital: instead of an oil painting to hang on the wall (or a Pokémon card to hold in their hand) the buyer gets a digital file and one of a kind identifying code that is recorded on a blockchain. Only one person has exclusive ownership and therefore digital bragging rights.

According to Reuters, sales of NFTs hit just under $2.5 billion in the first half of 2021. When it comes to NFT making and selling, there’s no barrier to entry or to investment, which means teens have access to an art market that circumvents the traditional gallery process.

jstngraphics’ digital series of dreamy, surreal landscapes recently sold out on the Nifty Gateway platform, an online NFT marketplace where Bodnar and eighteen-year-old Carlos Gomez, known as Solace, were featured in a drop—specifically, the online exhibition Nifty Next Generation. Bodnar's individual NFTs each sold for between $1,000-$7,250.

Those numbers may not seem like much compared to the phenomenal rise of digital artists such as forty-year-old Beeple (real name Mike Winklemann) whose NFT series of 5,000 daily drawings called EVERYDAYS-The First 5000 days set a record at Christie’s in March 2021 selling for $69.3 million.

But for teens like Bodnar, Gomez, and transgender artist Victor Langlois, known as FEWOCiOUS, the increasingly popular selling and buying of NFTs is changing not just the art world. 

Art “steered me in a direction that changed my life forever,” says Gomez. The artist, aka Solace, grew up in Soledad, California and began producing NFTs on a borrowed iPad because he didn’t own a personal computer. “I come from poverty my whole life and NFTs changed my lifestyle forever.”

Christie's.

FEWOCiOUS (B. 2003), Year 3, Age 16 - When A Child Feels Lost, Executed in 2021. Price Realized $437,500.

FEWOCiOUS caught the attention of Noah Davis, head of digital sales at Christie's, after developing a huge following on the digital art marketplace SuperRare. The Pop Art on steroids meets Basquiat-like style of his work expresses Langlois’ challenging childhood struggles with gender identity, sex reassignment, and transition.

Davis arranged an auction of Langlois’ work in June 2021. A series of five lots entitled Hello, I’m Victor (FEWOCiOUS) And This is My Life sold for $2.16 million. After the auction, Langlois went live on Instagram and said, “I put my everything into this and I was so nervous to come out and to tell everyone who I am. Thank you for believing in me and my story.”

With role models such as Langlois and Beeple and the accessibility of platforms to sell digital work such as Rarible, Opensea.io, and Atomic Hub, teenage artists like seventeen-year-old Randi Hipper, “Miss Teen Crypto,” and twelve-year-old London-based Benyamin Ahmed, are able to post online, market themselves, and build a following from a young age.

Benyamin Ahmed, whale #0.

Ahmed, who earned $350,000 in crypto for his Weird Whales series of 3,350 pixelated whales with distinct traits, started to code at age five with instruction from his father—a web developer—and online tutorials and mentors.

“They have the keys to the castle,” Davis says. “There is a premium for artists who look and feel like they are part of this community and part of this world.”

Still, not all of the sales of NFTs register in the millions, and, like cryptocurrency, they have been subject to bouts of volatility since the Beeple auction. “The early bubble has burst,” according to a September 2021 Time magazine article on teenage NFT artists.

For Hipper, who does cartoonish self-portraits, it’s not about the money. Miss Teen Crypto says that so far she has earned a few hundred dollars max. All she wants is to “perfect her skills, know how to do a drop and set up a store.” Last June she graduated from high school.

About the Author

Rina Rich Langer

Rina Rich Langer is a writer and adjunct professor of writing at New York University. She has written about the arts for various publications including Gannett and The New York Times. She is also a published poet and Brown graduate.

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