How an LA-Based Latinx Artist Rose to the Top of the NFT World

In an interview with LAMag, Ilse Valfré breaks down NFTs, her new collection of 600 unique hand drawn original art, and how her Mexican roots help influence her art biz.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have been all the craze, but leave many divided as to whether the latest art form can hold its weight amongst the greats.

Many outlets suggest NFT sales are flatlining, but many continue to sell for record prices—a Yuga Labs Otherdeed NFT just sold for $1.5 million, and a Nike “Cryptokicks” NFT Sneaker was bought at $130,000.

Regardless, it is safe to say that in 2022, NFTs are taken a bit more seriously than they ever were. Latinx artist Ilse Valfré is one of the figures breaking down the stigmas about NFTs through her rapid work ethic. She just launched a 10,000-piece collection, Valfrélandia, featuring 15 of her signature character types with 600 hand-drawn original pieces.

A photo of Valfré. (Photo by Donald Eley)

“I’ve been in the digital art space a long time, and there have always been people who didn’t think of it as super legitimate or ‘real art,’” Valfré told Los Angeles magazine. “Rather than trying to convince them, I’m going to keep growing and adding value for my community, and hope that somewhere along the way they change their mind.”

Valfré grew up in Playa de Tijuana and began creating art as a child. Though she says it was certainly “not an artistic town,” it was still just “funky, interesting and weird” enough for her to draw inspiration from.

“I grew up surrounded by surfer teens, conservative Christians, skaters and at the same time the narco cultura was very influential. I had to learn to appreciate the good things of life,” she said.

Her first strides into the NFT world came later on when she perfected her practice during the beginning of the web2 movement on Tumblr. After accumulating a following from sharing her work, she started to share more of her work online far before the mainstream internet emergence of the digital art world.

Valfré immediately recognized what she was doing could potentially be lucrative, and began to make money by building a series of clothing, ceramics, prints, and other products, all featuring her work.

“In my childhood, drawing was my therapy, providing an escape into another world where I could control the narrative,” she said. “I started very young, but it wasn’t until later that I started to learn the traditional technique and fundamentals that would later shape my work.”

And her childhood still plays a huge role in her work. As a female, Mexican artist, a lot of her heritage and identity bleeds through when she puts together pieces—they are a meticulously crafted story of what is and what was.

Valfré’s whole career has been built on the premise of portraying strong female characters, all while being in a male-dominated field. In fact, back in Nov. 2021, Bloomberg reported that female artists in the NFT art market accounted for just five percent of sales in the two-year period before then.

The article also highlighted Fame Lady Squad, which claimed to be the first-ever female-led crypto art collective and raised $1.5 million for underrepresented artists. Just weeks after they were founded, it was revealed that the group was actually run by men.

“Not only am I able to be a female voice in a male-dominated field, but I’m able to perpetuate the types of women I would like to see represented in the space with my art,” Valfré said. “My biggest hope is that as I move forward into this uncharted territory, more women feel like there’s a place for them and they’re able to make the leap and take up space as well.”

Since her entry into the NFT world, Valfré has been met with great success. Her NFTs from Valfrélandia sold for .123 ETH ($2,320.37) and held an auction on NIFTY Gateway that sold out. During that auction, the highest bid was a stunning $9,600, and the winner received a Lucy Golden Edition NFT.

“The way I see it, NFTs just add value [to the art world]! Artists and musicians are finally able to use the blockchain to offer their original work directly to their fans in a way that allows them to build community and value together,” Valfré expressed.

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