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The World's Best Interview with Artist Des Lucréce?
The Sotheby's artist opens up about the loss of his father, lessons he’s learned from his mom, his plans for 2023, his favorite books, why he chooses to remain anonymous, and more. PLUS: A Giveaway.
Only in the digital art world can you be a highly-regarded artist who has over 55,000 Twitter followers, a successful six-figure Sotheby’s sale, thousands of collectors… and a grand total of zero interviews that show up on the first few pages of Google in response to the query “[name] + interview.”
Yet that is the case with today’s interviewee - the artist known as Des Lucréce.
In any other creative industry - sports, traditional art, film, writing, food - this would be impossible.
This lack of attention from traditional media outlets reminds me how early and niche we still are over here in the digital art space.
I noticed the same phenomenon when I interviewed DeeKay Kwon last year, another example of a wildly successful digital artist whose presence on the internet was shockingly small (outside of him posting his own work).
This is why The Monty Report exists.
There are very few journalists taking an interest in the digital art scene. The Monty Report is filling that void. Earlier this year, I stated my vision:
In order to make this big vision a reality, The Monty Report will need to become a self-sustaining economic engine.
Today, I am launching paid memberships.
I want to make it easy for you to invest in the work you want to see in the world. If you think my interviews and writing are valuable and interesting and worth continuing, then I encourage you to invest in this work so that it continues.
I want to drive extreme value back to my most engaged readers. My goal is to provide a ton of value for free. But I also want to provide premium value to the most engaged members of this community. By activating an affordable paid membership, I can discover who my most engaged readers are, and I can provide premium value for those members.
I want to take The Monty Report to new heights. Currently, this is just a newsletter. In the future, The Monty Report will be a full-fledged media company with audio and video offerings. This will require capital. In addition to subscriptions, I may also experiment with other forms of revenue, such as sponsorships (which I have done in the past), art, and membership tokens. Let’s build together.
Since all of you here are my earliest readers and supporters, I want to reward you with special Founding Member pricing.
For the next week (until the next newsletter comes out) my Founding Membership tiers are:
$8/month for a Founding Monthly membership (0.0053 ETH)
$80/year for a Founding Annual membership (.053 ETH)
$240/year for the Founding Patron of the Arts membership (0.14 ETH)
If you join at any of these levels now, you will be grand-hounded in at those prices forever (so long as you stay subscribed). '
[⚠️ UPDATE: By popular request, for Annual or Patron of the Arts membership levels, you can pay directly in ETH if you want. Just DM me on Twitter]
Next week, prices go up by 150% to $12/month (.007 ETH), $120/year (.07 ETH), or $365/year to become a Patron of the Arts (0.21 ETH)
In addition to the discount, anyone who becomes a Founding Member in the next week will automatically be entered to win this Defy Mosaic by Des Lucrece (currently the floor is over 0.3 ETH/$500 USD):
By becoming a member now, you will receive:
1 entry for Founding Monthly Members
5 entries for Founding Annual Members
20 entries for the Founding Patrons of the Arts
Thank you in advance for your investment.
Now, onto the interview with Des Lucréce.
p.s. I won’t be able to see any of your internal payment details or anything like that. That all happens privately and securely through Stripe.
p.p.s. I may have a bonus giveaway happening mid-week for all new Hounders (my working name for my paid members - tell me if you like it or if you have a better idea)
p.p.p.s .This subscription model is an experiment. Depending on how it goes, I reserve the right to scrap it and try other things.
⚠️ Before we continue to the interview: Please note that if you are receiving this post by email, it is likely too long for your email provider. I recommend reading it in your browser, here: themontyreport.com/p/des
The Artist Known as Des Lucréce
The Artist known as Des Lucréce (who I will refer to as “Des”) contained multitudes.
His work reflects these multitudes.
This flashy, fun art is actually more than it appears. Each piece has a story — a reason for being. These reasons are informed by Des’s various identities, his experiences, and the philosophy that has shaped his worldview.
After corresponding with Des for the past few weeks, my impression is that he is a deeply intellectual person. He is a philosophy bug, and his work has been influenced by the works and writings of Lacan, Zizek, Deleuze, Foucault, Barthes, and Baudrillard. All of the books that he recommended to me were all serious art theory tomes (one recommendation was an entire book just about the color white).
This nerdiness is counterbalanced by a deeply artistic soul, a sharp knack for storytelling and brand building, and a pragmatic sense of business.
In many ways, Des is the paradigm of what it takes to be a superstar artist in 2023. He possesses all the “must haves” — technical prowess, vision, and creative execution — but he also exhibits high proficiency in the other more basic arts of business, marketing, branding, community building, and sales.
The more I learned about Des and his life and the stories behind his work, the more beautiful his art became.
Des, in his own telling, is someone who has never felt at “home” anywhere - that is, until he found web3. I’m glad Des found a place where he feels more settled. His vision is vast and his career is young. I truly feel like we’re in the first inning with Des Lucréce.
And now, let’s hear from the artist himself.
In this interview, Des covers many things, including:
The loss of his father
Lessons he’s learned from his mom
His plans for 2023
Books he recommends
His favorite Vietnamese food
Why he chooses to remain anonymous and whether he will ever doxx himself
The last time he cried
His business and core team
…and much more.
A Conversation with Des Lucréce
Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
I was born and raised in a small town in Norway about 2 hours north of Oslo. My parents were both Vietnamese refugees, and they both couldn’t have been a worse match for each other. They ended up separating when I was 3.
I decided to stay with my mother, and I would see my father 2-3 times a week. During my childhood, I lived in a subsidized triplex and attended a local elementary school with other low-income kids. I also had cousins and other family in the same area.
I never knew we were struggling growing up, my parents both did an exceptional job of keeping me fed, clothed, and happy. My mother worked at a sewing factory that eventually closed, while my father took on various odd jobs.
At the age of ten, my mother and I immigrated to a small southern town in the US, where my grandmother, who had remarried and moved to the US before I was born, ran a nail salon.
I went from an extremely diverse environment with family around to a place where I was the only kid that looked the way I did. This coupled with not speaking a single word of English — it doesn’t take a creative imagination to figure out what a difficult time it was being thrown into the American public school system.
The school wasn’t equipped with any ESL programs, and It wasn’t until one year later that they brought someone in— at which point my English proficiency was nearly fluent through watching cartoons.
Throughout my entire childhood, one thing remained a constant — I was always pretty good at drawing. Regardless of the language barriers, my pencil sketches always helped me connect with the other kids. It was magic sharing something I created and seeing them excited by it. So I kept drawing.
Your Know Origin collection “A New Journey” has to do with the loss of your father, who passed away in May of 2021. What was your relationship with your father like growing up? How did you lose your father? What does this series have to do with him?
My father had a tough time in life.
I remember spending nights with him in his beat-up two-door Toyota after the divorce, but also at all the strange places he ended up living — like the priest’s quarters of a catholic church, and a tiny 8x10 subsidized shelter.
He was one of those guys that just needed a lucky break, which in my short time with him, he never got. He loved me though, and whether it was the makeshift meals he made in a disassembled rice cooker or all the times he took me to see Toy Story in theaters, I knew he was trying to be the best father he could regardless of his circumstance.
I still have the talking Pikachu plush he bought me with borrowed money to prove it. My father and I ended up losing touch once I moved to the US. It was difficult for him to come up with the money to call regularly, but also, it was difficult for him to interact with my grandparents since they viewed him so negatively.
It had been 18 years since I lost contact with him when I got a random Facetime call from my half-brother. On the other side of the phone was my father in a hospital bed. He had received a terminal diagnosis of liver failure. It’s still not fully clear what caused it since we didn’t really address any of those things in the call.
He passed away about 5 days after the initial call. I wanted to go see him, but Norway still had extremely strict COVID regulations at the time, and I didn’t have enough money for a flight.
The collection “A New Journey” on KnownOrigin is the manifestation of my feelings of loss, and all the experiences I wish I could share with him in this new chapter of my life.
The series is a depiction of my own navigation of this space, success, and what all of it means in the context of not being able to share this with him moving forward. I had been waiting to reconnect with him once I made something of myself, but realize now that we were both waiting on the same thing.
Losing a parent, or anyone close to you can be a very disorienting and disconnecting experience. How are you doing now?
They say that grief is all the unexpressed love you have for someone you’ve lost. So I’ll be grieving for the rest of my life.
Life is a cycle of highs and lows — the seasons pass and time keeps moving forward. Life is worth living because our time here is finite, and the moments we remember are what make our short time here special.
What a beautiful sentiment. Thank you.
Let’s talk about your mom. You once tweeted “My greatest achievement isn't going to Sotheby's— It's convincing my Asian tiger mom to let me be an artist.” Tell me more about that!
Ha! Growing up in an Asian household comes with certain expectations for children to excel and pursue high-income careers, such as being a doctor/lawyer.
However, breaking the news to my mother, who worked tirelessly for 14 hours a day, that I wanted to pursue a career as an artist was met with more than a little skepticism. Yet despite her initial reaction, she has always been supportive of my passions.
To help her cope a bit with my decision, I decided to pursue a BFA in studio arts with a concentration in Design. Once I graduated, I worked at a design agency and didn’t find any fulfillment there. On a whim, I decided to apply for an artist residency in Tokyo. I was massively underqualified, but somehow lucky enough to be accepted to the program.
While there, I shared a living space with 5 of the most brilliant artists I've ever met. All of them had many more years of experience talking about art and exhibiting works.
Their advice: Make what's true to you and your experience, and show it to everyone willing to see it.
The rest is pretty much history— I created the artist alias Des Lucréce when I returned to the states in 2018. I started posting works I’d been hiding for the last 3 years, which eventually lead me here! Though to this day my mom may or may not fully understand the gravity of showing at Sotheby's.
You also wrote that this year you plan on retiring your mom. That’s absolutely incredible. What would you say are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from her?
Perseverance in the face of adversity is the key to overcoming difficulties. My mother rarely speaks about her experiences during the war, but from what I've gathered, it's clear that her unwavering determination helped her survive.
Life is what you make of it, regardless of the obstacles that come your way. My mother never once complained about her circumstances and always tries to find the positive in every situation.
She proved that a woman doesn't need a man to be successful. After her divorce, she remained single but also became one of the most self-sufficient individuals I know. She put me through school, took charge of the nail salon, and worked tirelessly to provide me with a comfortable life without relying on anyone else.
How did you choose the name Des Lucréce?
Des Lucréce is a play on my own name, but I also wanted it to appear French. It's a reference to the French occupation of Vietnam, which lasted more than six decades.
During the occupation, they replaced the logographic writing system with the Latin alphabet. Vietnamese people got some killer dishes out of it though like banh mi, Vietnamese iced coffee, and even Pho!
On your website bio, you discuss having “no home center” - what does the word “home” mean to you? And in what spaces, physical or virtual, do you feel most at home?
"Home" refers to a sense of identity, community, and belonging.
"No Home Center" is a disconnect between our sense of belonging and identity. I’ve always felt like a foreigner in the places I’ve lived — too western for Asia, too Asian for westerners.
However, I do find solace in web3. I’m no one but at the same time, I am someone that others care about. The space has really given me something I haven’t quite felt before.
What does a day in your life look like right now?
I wake up around 6:00 am and do some organizational stuff to get the day lined up. I tweet a GM closer to 9:00 am and get to the studio around 9:30 am.
Outside of the constant barrage of meetings, I’m either sketching or refining works throughout the day. I try to eat at least 2 meals with my SO every day, and spend as much time with her and my family as the work schedule permits.
When was the last time you cried and why?
Just now during question two.
Unpacking some of those memories can still be difficult, and remembering just how naive of a kid I was is equally saddening but also uplifting.
The pandemic brought forth an unprecedented rise in anti-Asian sentiment, and I saw firsthand the hateful personalities that fueled it. As the son of a nail salon owner in a small southern town, I was all too familiar with the discrimination and racism my mother faced.
This inspired me to create the "Monsters" project, a series of portraits that captured the virtual faces and personas of the individuals who spread hate online against my mother's business and the Asian community as a whole. Over time, the project evolved to include other characters I encountered while experiencing life as the "other."
How did Sotheby's deal go down? Did they approach you or did you approach them? Take us behind the scenes.
I met Arthemort when he was just a young guy going through the Sotheby’s school of business. I believe this was over 2 years ago at this point!
During that time, I not only got to know him but also his mother, as our mutual interest in art brought us together. After graduation, Arthemort was rightfully hired by Sotheby's and, as one of my biggest supporters, proposed a bold plan to showcase my Monsters in a solo exhibition at the esteemed auction house.
Tell me about your piece “Object of Desire” on SuperRare. That term borrows from Lacanian philosophy. What does the term mean to you? What are your objects of desire? How does this piece of art connect with its title?
"Object of Desire'' is a piece that explores the idea of desire as a motivating force in our lives. The constant cycle of being shown what we should want, to having it consume the essence of who we are. So much so that we construct a world, a personality, and a life around it. I’m still seeking the unattainable— but still lost on what that is. I suppose that's why I used my personified character as the subject in the work.
Speaking of Object of Desire, your Instagram bio includes just one sentence: “Because life is about chasing Coke Zero™.” On its face, this is a confusing bio. But after learning more about the influences behind your work, I suspect it may have to do with philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s 'Coke as objet petit a.' Can you confirm or deny? Can you elaborate further on that sentence?
It is indeed a reference to Žižek!
The concept of my tagline "Because life is about chasing Coke Zero™" is a nod to Žižek’s take on Lacan’s ideas on the human pursuit of unattainable desires.
It reflects our constant striving for things we believe will bring us happiness and fulfillment, whether it's a certain lifestyle, material objects, or emotions.
Our relationship with Coca-Cola is a perfect example of this phenomenon. While it's not the most palatable drink, we've developed a taste for it through social conditioning and the belief that it's what "cool" or "accepted" people consume.
However, when we strip away the sugar, what remains is an object of pure desire with no real nutritional value. It is a constructed commodity we have become conditioned to want, an objet petit a.
This same idea can be applied to digital art - I’m asking you to think about the question of what happens when we remove the physical aspects of art.
Besides Lacan and Zizek are there other philosophers who have influenced you or your work?
Besides Lacan and Zizek, other philosophers who have influenced my work include Deleuze, Foucault, Barthes, and Baudrillard — I enjoyed my critical theory course just a little too much during my undergrad.
Many people reading this may have never participated in the Tez ecosystem - what do you want them to know?
Tezos is an incubator for some of the best art in web3.
It’s not a volume chain but has the most incredible community of collectors in the space. It’s accessible, and the place I believe all artists should start. It’s art for art's sake. A love letter between artists and collectors. Works there are affordable and of high quality.
I highly recommend setting up a wallet and taking a dive!
[Editor’s note: I use Kukai Wallet for my Tezos collecting and have no complaints]
Earlier this year, Defy / Proceed w/ Caution took the NFT world by storm. Recently you took a snapshot of full set holders, who were then able to mint a generative 1/1 through Async Art called Defy Mosaics. But you have also said that there are many more phases to come.
I think this project may actually be much more conceptual and ambitious than people realize. What more can you share?
I think over the course of these last two years we’ve all become accustomed to a culture in NFTs that feels separated from what the use cases can be, what the technology represents for a creator, and the incredible social tool that it can be.
Without giving away too much — I want to turn the space on its head, but also build a movement that far exceeds that of just web3. I want to ask questions about where value comes from, what it means to collect on web3, and how do you as a collector navigate this space with your own preconceived rules and notions.
Defy is a reference to Obey. An ode to one of my long-time idols, Shepard Fairey. The "Obey" campaign is significant for several reasons— but one of the main reasons is that it helped to popularize the idea of street art and graffiti as legitimate art forms. There is a lot of overlap between what Shepard was trying to do with Obey as I am with Defy— especially coming off the heels of a Sotheby's auction where I felt like we were trying to say that Digital art on the blockchain is a legitimate form of art.
Defy is a play on Defi. Proceed w/ Caution is a play on Proceeds w/ Caution. Decentralized finance and NFTs have garnered a lot of stigma throughout the years as a scam-filled, volatile, and hostile market. We constantly battle misconceptions with promises of a decentralized future.
The name “Proceed with Caution” comes from the signature process on OpenSea where you grant OpenSea access to all your assets. Another nod at the space, but also how most of us never noticed or didn’t read the things put in front of us.
It asks us to pause and think of all the moments leading up to this point in time in this space.
Your work is instantly recognizable and may eventually be considered iconic. Do you ever worry about caricaturing yourself or feeling like you have to maintain a certain aesthetic?
I think I’ve seen my work change quite a bit from my first mints 2 years ago, but only in terms of refining certain technical skills or how I approach small aspects of my compositions. It is possible that as I grow, my art will as well!
However, I was trained as a designer, and I often refer to myself as a designer that wants to be a painter. Maintaining the visual language as a brand isn’t something I’m too worried about. I’ve constructed a fairly dynamic visual style, and whenever I break some of those rules, it tends to make for a fun experience for me and the viewer.
The goal is to become one of the most recognizable art brands in the world. As long as that’s the ultimate goal, maintaining the aesthetic luckily isn’t a concern!
You have a team that supports you with your Discord and your business. Can you tell me about them and how you assembled that team and how you all work together?
The team behind Monsters that keep the machine running is really like no other in the space. We all came together pretty organically, but primarily through my discerning right-hand man, Fooh.
We met through a DM exchange where I thanked him for buying my work. It was my second Tezos sale I believe! I got to know him and a little bit about his family over the course of the following months, and we just clicked on so many levels.
He eventually convinced me to create a Discord, and over the course of the last 2 years he has been key in vetting and bringing on board other team members, but he is also in charge of just about all technical aspects of my drops.
After getting to know him for just a couple of months it became clear that he was one of the most impressive humans I’ve ever met. He has told me, “My job is to let you do what you do best, and that’s making art.” So I come up with the crazy ideas, and he figures out how we can do it.
Fooh is a brilliant individual who works for a well-known company, where he is literally helping shape the future of IT. He is the silent unknown machine that has helped notable people and companies in the space like Pre-mint/Vulcan, Moonbirds, HeartYou, etc. Besides just being an excellent human, I’m lucky to be able to call him my best friend.
Seattle is a published neurologist and a public speaker leading the field, but also a key moderator that creates gifs and engages the mon community.
BFLO is an efficient machine that swiftly handles every ticket that opens, and has a keen sense for trading and market analysis.
Dragon is a genius with a background in IT. He is dangerous in the space with some of his extracurricular activities, but we are lucky he is on our side.
K0 is a brilliant app developer and part of his job description irl is working with partners to build the future of Web3 gaming. He is the one behind our very comprehensive supersite.
Adam is most notably the brains behind Vulcan alongside Mulligan! Both of them are monsters of their industry.
Detty is a badass collector and speaker in web3. She is a strong proponent of artists, and does the utmost possible to platform those she believes in.
Why do you choose to remain anonymous?
I think the reasoning has changed quite a bit over the last two years, but the main reason at the onset was that I wanted to reinforce the idea that my experience as a second-generation Asian is ubiquitous among us.
Though my life experiences do give context to the work hereafter, I think the faceless aspect of my work gives it the power to connect to others in a way I just don't think would be possible otherwise.
I think my beginning mission still remains, but these days after seeing some of the threats some creators have received, I'm just a bit more cautious than I was before.
Do you ever plan to doxx yourself?
Perhaps only to a handful of people. The ultimate art utility, hahaha.
How many people IRL know that you are Des Lucréce?
Outside of family, I think about 9 or 10.
What goals do you have for yourself/your work in 2023?
The list is constantly expanding as my ambitions don’t quite know where to draw the line. The primary focus year over the year though is to become a more recognized artist/art brand within and outside of Web3.
Whether that means strategic partnerships or brand deals with global brands, I’m hoping to establish a name for myself within the art industry. Some steps taken towards that already is the show at Sotheby’s, and developing a connection with Christie's!
Finally, some rapid-fire questions to finish up:
When you feel unfocused or overwhelmed, what do you do? Do you have any routines or practices that you use to help yourself relax or focus?
One of my first significant investments after experiencing success was a Herman Miller Eames chair. When feeling stressed, I take a seat and immerse myself in audiobooks, podcasts, or albums depending on my mood at the moment.
I’ve also started drinking yerba mate these past couple of months after seeing hundreds of photos of Messi consuming the stuff. If it can help him win the world cup, it can help me make some jpegs.
Are there any pieces of work that you are particularly proud of or that you think are underrated?
The Sotheby's bidders edition, "In the Wake," was a true labor of love. I devoted countless hours to perfecting this piece, and it's safe to say it was one of the most technically demanding works I've tackled to date.
Capturing the fluidity of water in the Monsters style was particularly challenging, and I had to be careful not to overwork the piece. I might’ve spent more time on this piece than some of my SuperRare works. However, I'm incredibly proud of the final result and believe it to be one of my finest creations. It's also the inaugural piece in the Monsters editions collection. Highly recommend picking one up!
If you could have dinner with any living artist past or present, who would it be?
Either Kaws or Futura2000 — I just want to know how to take that leap to build an empire.
Music you are loving right now?
Lately, I have been captivated by the musical genius of Joe Hisaishi. I had the privilege of witnessing him perform live at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, accompanied by a dear collector and friend. The experience was truly transcendent.
The music from Studio Ghibli films has provided me with a magical escape since childhood, and seeing Hisaishi perform the scores in person was nothing short of a dream come true.
What are your favorite Vietnamese foods or dishes?
There is only one right answer, and that is Bún Bò Huế. A spicy beef and pork soup made from lemongrass, beef, and bones. It’s perfection in the form of food.
A book or books you often gift or recommend?
Are there any underrated artists you would like to shout out to help bring some eyeballs to their work?
Currently amazed by what @lifeofmuga is building. The ones behind the project are insanely brilliant, and I expect great things from them in the future.
Finally, how else can readers keep up with you and support your work?
Thank you so much for this brilliant interview friend!
Thank you for reading!
Don’t forget to sign up for a Founding Membership this week in order to be eligible for the giveaway of this Defy Mosaic by Des Lucréce:
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