“Hi I’m Sevi,”
“How old are you?”
“I’m 9 years old.”
It was the first time I interviewed someone as young as Sevi Agregado, the artist also known as “Sevi Loves Art.” Naturally, I was nervous, and I thought Sevi’s mother April might have noticed that too.
Sevi was surprisingly very comfortable on camera, and he answered my questions with ease and enthusiasm — you know that kind of cheerfulness you only see in children? That one. It was infectious. You can’t help but smile.
“Hi Michael,” he was very adorable.
At times, Sevi’s sister would casually stroll in front of the webcam, saying hi. At times, Sevi would leave with his sister, and it would just be myself and April talking about the youngest NFT artist — and one of the most successful — right now from the Philippines. Behind Sevi and April — hanging from the wall — are the 9-year old’s paintings on canvas, framed, and proudly displayed.
Sevi Agregado has an upcoming one day exhibition at Draper Startup House on November 10, 2021. The exhibition is open to the public. Sevi’s work is also currently exhibited in NFT New York.
It started with Beeple
“No one knew about NFTs until after the Beeple sale,” April said when I asked her how Sevi got started into NFT art. Beeple, a natively digital artist with millions of followers, began selling his digital art as NFTs late last year. In March 2021, his “Everyday – the First 5000 Days” digital mosaic was sold at Christie’s, the legendary art auction house.
Prior to Beeple at Christie’s, people were wondering whether NFTs really have value or they are just all hype and vapor. After the Beeple sale, there is little doubt in their minds that NFTs do have value, and it was worth $69 million, at least that was the final auction price of “Everydays.”
The interest around NFT art simply just surged, and the entire NFT art sale market has hit $3.5 billion in Q3 2021. April said a friend told her about NFTs (excitedly, she added), and so, instead of just posting Sevi’s art online, they decided to take the plunge. “[Our friend] told us about NFTs and without understanding completely, we created a Twitter and Instagram account just to share his work,” April said.
It was Sevi’s “Koi” painting that the “Sevi Loves Art” account began sharing online.
“We would interact with artists, and some collectors, and really it was just about telling Sevi’s story, that Sevi painted Koi during his art therapy when he was five, and we started to grow his followers from there.”
Acrylic on Canvas
Most associated with NFT art are works depicting cryptocurrency, pop culture, or a mix of both with politics and societal issues in between. Many artists have their own “gimmick” too to stand out. In Beeple’s “2020 Collection”, the buyer of the NFT would be shipped with a “physical artifact” and “authentic Beeple hair sample.” A tech firm bought the famous pseudonymous street artist Banksy’s in-real-life art, turned it into NFT, then proceeded to burn the physical art in a bid to drive the value of the Banksy NFT.
But in this sea of crypto art that often portrays the outrageous and the futuristic, there are those who paint the beauty in the mundane, and it’s certainly refreshing to see NFT art that isn’t another political or social commentary. Sevi’s works are everyday scenic views. There’s the Koi in a pond, a turtle under the sea, butterflies, goldfish, and a colorful owl.
How does Sevi decide what to paint next?
“We usually asks him what he wants to paint, especially in the beginning, since he had a preference as to what he wanted,” April said,
“What do you want to paint next?” I asked.
“Everything!” Sevi said.
Sevi paints using acrylic on canvas. And while he usually decides on his own, April said he’s been open to suggestions as of late. “But he does the pencil sketches and the actual painting,” April quickly added. “He doesn’t like somebody else doing it for him. Even if it’s just demonstrating how it needs to be done. He’ll immediately ask that we let him try to do it himself.”
A Story to Tell
Sevi has been painting ever since he was 5 years old. It was not as if Sevi wanted to be a painter someday, like every kid who declared they want to be a doctor or lawyer when they grow up.
Painting is, instead, Sevi’s therapy.
“When he was 2, he was diagnosed with autism, and we had him start on therapy right away,” April recalled. This therapy included activities that help Sevi to develop the skills to interact and relate to other people.
At 5 years old, Sevi’s parents enrolled him in art class, gymnastics, and football as part of his therapy, but the mother said it was only art that the boy wanted to continue.
“We enrolled him without thinking anything of it, but it turned out that he enjoyed it, and that he was good at it,” April said. Art proved to be an excellent channel to leverage Sevi’s skill and artistic flair while also being an effective therapy for his condition. As a testament, Sevi’s favorite artist is his teacher.
It was at that point that they started sharing Sevi’s work on their Facebook profiles.
First Mint Fund
April, on behalf of Sevi, applied for a grant from the First Mint Fund, which helped artists mint their first NFT piece by covering the fees for them to do so. After the grant, Sevi proceeded to mint the 5/5 editions of the Koi painting.
It sold out immediately.
One edition was purchased by Colin Goltra and three more editions were bought by Gabby Dizon, the two are founders of First Mint Fund. “Sevi is just 8 years old and has both an incredible story and future ahead in the CryptoArt world,” Colin said in a tweet. Team Sevi gifted the last edition to the person who introduced them to NFTs.
Sevi dropped the next two NFTs afterwards. They, too, were sold out in a week. “It’s really flattering and humbling to know that his work was collected by so many people from all over the world, we had people from Europe, from North America, and from Asia,” April said.
“Sevi is a boy with special powers for creating art. He painted these pieces when he was 5,” said another Twitter user who proudly shared their bought Sevi-created NFTs.
Galleries and Art Fairs
Sevi’s work would then be featured in exhibitions around the world, online and offline. “There was a physical NFT gallery in Singapore and in Chicago that showed his work.” Sevi was featured in Vogue Singapore, in Art Fair Philippines, and, at the time this was published, Sevi’s work will be displayed in NFT New York and NFT Amsterdam. Sevi’s work will be alongside Beeple and pioneering digital artist Pak.
“We don’t know how to explain it because we never thought any of these would happen, atleast not anytime soon and not to the extent that it’s happening right now,” April said, admitting their surprise at how all this somehow blew up in less than 12 months. “We were humbled when people wanted to support Sevi by buying his work,” she said.
The Story of Sevi
Sevi’s artist page on Rarible describes him as a “differently-abled boy with autism from the Philippines, who found a love for art at the age of 5.” and that sales of his art help toward his continued therapy.
When I first decided I wanted to write about Sevi, I decided not to make Sevi’s condition the big feature to tell his story. Nathan Smale, another Sevi art collector, agrees that it should not be the big feature while at the same time not glossing about it either.
Anonymous collector YGG_Crypto told me something similar. Like everyone else, they first found Sevi because of the Koi painting. “I remember the feeling of incredulity when I saw the work of art, which was heightened further upon learning that a 5 year old painted this.”
“Then I learned about Sevi’s story: his autism, and how he found his peace and stillness with painting. Sevi’s talent is truly phenomenal, and I was more than happy that I could support him through his NFTs. Excited to see what’s more to come in the future for this talented kid.“
“Sevi’s talent and success as a young painter in the Crypto Art space has been incredibly rewarding to watch,“ says Colin Goltra of First Mint Fund, adding that Sevi’s success is a testament to the inclusivity and openness of the crypto world.
Sevi is now one of the crypto artists representing the Philippines in art fairs and NFT exhibitions around the world. Sevi is also a year older, so at some point, will he be trying other types of art styles? April said they were gifted some ETH to purchase a Wacom tablet to try digital art and generative art. In the simplest terms, generative art refers to an art style that uses computer programs to add effects in portions of, or the entire art. Many NFT art uses this particular style, Beeple, for example.
“We got the Wacom tablet, but it’s not something he wants right now. It’s a bit disingenuous for us to do generative work even if I can hire someone to do it or I add the effects to Sevi’s art myself, but if we do that, it won’t be him.”
It’s not Sevi.
April said Sevi’s future depends on Sevi alone. And while he’s not like other young artists who already figure out what they want to do, atleast for Sevi, his family will always be there to support him in whatever he does next. This is why April’s advice to artists who want to do NFTs is to manage their expectations first and more importantly, be true to their own art styles.
“But it’s about putting your art out there, being true to your style. Of course you can try other styles, but it’s just respecting your own process.”
Her final piece of advice? Just try it out.
“Give it a chance because what’s there to lose? It’s a wonderful opportunity to be recognized from what you make, and not because you were paid to do it. So it’s making sure you have that love for art, when people see that, they will know it’s you.”
Sevi Agregado has an upcoming one day exhibition at Draper Startup House on November 10, 2021. The exhibition is open to the public.
This article is published on BitPinas: Filipino NFT Artist Profiles: Sevi Loves Art