Lushsux’s street art is created by Banksy and. celebrated Beeple; its NFTs have grossed millions; and he has a groundbreaking auction planned for a “major auction house” next March – but he’s still a man of the people.
The artist leads me through his studio warehouse in downtown Melbourne, but worries when I vaguely point my camera at his battered old Ford. The anonymous artist worries that I will inadvertently reveal his location to other graffiti crews who hate him.
“Do me a favor and don’t shoot the front of the car because a cunt comes here trying to stab me. I’m not kidding, ”he says.
“They’ll find out where it is – trust me – and I’ll get around a psycho-cunt.”
Lush (that’s what everyone calls him since “Sux” was a late addition) was previously beaten up by other writers, best known in connection with a series of murals by the rapper 50 Cent.
As the somewhat true, somewhat made-up story goes, Fiddy grew increasingly upset over Lush’s murals mixing his face with Taylor Swift (Swifty Cent), Donald Trump (The 45 Fif President), and Mike Tyson (50 Thent). The rapper republished this final mural to his 11.8 million followers, telling them it showed that Lush needed “an ass fuck badly”.
Not long after that, Lush actually got an asshole, and he posted a picture reply to Fiddy from his bloodstained hospital bed. However, Lush graciously blamed “violent video games” rather than the rapper.
Lush explains that he brought some weightlifting equipment into the gym so he can pump iron in preparation for the next time.
“I was beaten up,” he says. “Someone hit me in the shoulder with a metal rod, so I brought my things back so I could go back inside.”
Lush doesn’t look like a big fighter, despite the fact that he’s a big guy in a death metal t-shirt that shows his tattoos. The image is slightly undercut by a ponytail, smart-looking pants and a softly spoken manner. He says he doesn’t intend to get into fights if he can avoid it:
“It’s not worth it. It’s a funny man, Karma. There’s always someone taller and junkier than you.”
Lushsux is what the Australians call a “shit mixer” who loves to provoke a reaction, good or not. He calls it “strategic trolling” and describes himself on Twitter as “the world’s first and therefore best meme artist”.
He sprayed a dead horse for a London exhibition opening and hosted a wrestling death match so Jesus and Satan could compete in a cage at another. In 2017 he painted a huge mural of Donald Trump on the separation wall in the West Bank in Israel, referring to the President’s “building the wall” plan for the Mexican border. However, he is an equal opportunity troublemaker and is also hailed for controversial and allegedly sexist views of Hilary Clinton and Kim Kardashian.
Previously, Elle Anastasiou, who works with Lush on its non-fungible token (NFT) platform DRP.io, stated that the loudmouth’s internet personality was primarily an act. “He’s a lot calmer personally, so I have to do all the talking,” she says.
Lush admits that “it’s a misdirection” and adds, “Lush doesn’t have to be me, like my government name, type and personality, you know what I mean?” he says. “I’d rather have fun with it.”
Locked while NFTs go up
Melbourne is still in the grip of the longest lockdown in the world, which will have reached 263 days by the time it is finally lifted on October 22nd was mostly limited to painting in its warehouse for the duration.
There are stacks of canvases in one corner and he was recently working on a Joaquin Phoenix Joker NFT drop and a large Bored Ape painting he painted for a friend who owns the actual NFT.
On the opposite wall are three huge murals by Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg. I had earlier seen him live on Twitter murmuring somberly about Zuck being a “goddamn lizard” and complaining that every time he paints the social media overlord, his Instagram posts are mysteriously lost walk. When he finishes a mural, he imports the image into Adobe Premiere to add motion to the NFT because “there’s more value in being animated. It’s kind of fun. “
“My formula is to combine viral moments with living memes, and that makes things pop,” he says. A characteristic move by Lush is finding the movement’s most talked about celebrity and combining them with some sort of meme to hijack social media algorithms. This works even better if the celebrity participates by republishing the work or engaging in the work like Fiddy did.
I spot one of the green posters that have been hanging all over Melbourne for the past few weeks. You are in various other places around the world and will also advertise the sale of “Famous Instagram Account” on the billboard in New York’s Times Square.
No one currently knows whose account it is. “People guessed Banksy, Ai Weiwei, Snoop Dog,” laughs Anastasiou.
Of course, the Instagram account in question is Lush’s, which has 900,000 followers and more than 1 billion likes. He sells all 4,500 posts on the account individually as NFTs, from pictures of his street art to his frequent shitty posts.
After the NFTs set up a steamer through secondary sales, the project will culminate in March of next year with an auction of the entire account as “Token O” at Christie’s auction house. Well, at least that’s the plan they initially outlined. Anastasiou emailed me later to say that it is just one of the “big auction houses” that are interested in his work. It’s a way to regain control of your content from Instagram.
“You don’t technically get paid by Instagram to post all of this content. It’s almost a dead end. But I was thinking of this pool of content that I’ve been working on for the past 10 years and more. Why not make some kind of 10K project out of it? “
Perfect for crypto
As an anonymous troll with cutting humor who admits he lives in the wasteland of 4Chans / biz forum, Lush is perfect for crypto. He says he tried using Bitcoin to make payments, but he never really got into crypto “because I’m not a number guy”.
Until the NFT researcher GT Sewell sat him down in July 2020 and explained the whole world to him. Lush says he loved the concept so much that he could barely sleep for two weeks.
“Once he really got it into my head what the hell it is. I had this moment where you go crazy for a while you know As on that day, I completely switched my entire artistic practice to this thing. “
At the time, a rare NFT on Nifty Gateway could fetch $ 50,000 so it wanted to be accepted by the platform. He got the cold shoulder by contacting them directly and instead launched a conscious campaign to paint famous crypto figures – the Winklevoss twins Satoshi Nakamoto, Elon Musk, and Shiba Inu – to attract attention.
Although Winklevi retweeted him, it wasn’t until he painted Beeple – the most successful NFT artist at the time and now 50 times more successful – that the strategy worked.
“About two or three weeks later, he saw it and said, ‘I love that. It’s really cool. This is fantastic. Nobody’s ever done something like that. ’And I just talk to him and try to dig into his brain about NFTs and stuff. And then the next morning I magically get an email back from the Nifty people. I have to say, Beeple was the reason. “
Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” which collected 5,000 images the artist created daily for over 13.5 years and famously sold for $ 69 million, helped spark Lush’s Instagram idea.
“It definitely influenced my thinking. My mother asked me who Beeple is. It was that big. They are the kind of thing that you are sure to turn around. And finally I thought, like all these different things, to somehow flow into the Instagram idea. “
As a full-time artist since 2009, he has hosted 23 exhibitions and made a living comfortably enough, but NFT sales have climbed him to the ranks of Australia’s highest paid artist. He’s already made 623 sales for 922 ethers ($ 3.53 million), and that number is only likely to rise if news of this latest project gets around.
“That’s pretty crazy,” he says. “I always made enough to travel and stay alive. But now all the hard work is paying off, and I’ve found a real audience of people who are really interested in collecting the work. Because out in the real world, you have to do a lot of weird things to try and make a lot of money. “
Child from western suburbs is doing well
Lush grew up in Melbourne’s western industrial working class suburbs and was a high school dropout, so he never officially studied art. He had a shitty factory job when his boss told him he was meant for better things.
“He was an encouraging guy. He used to be a band roadie, and on my lunch breaks I would draw – whenever I had downtime, I would draw – so he said, “Why are you here? You shouldn’t do that. ‘”
In 2009 he went to Hong Kong and spent the next 10 years painting and traveling the world. “I just made it what I would do and haven’t had a job since then other than doing bizarre things.”
In 2013 he was the only street artist invited to the Melbourne Now showcase at the National Gallery of Victoria, and a year later Banksy invited him to participate in his exhibition Dismaland: Bemusement Park.
“I was like, ‘I’d better start making art,’ you know?” He says. “I was always interested in viral stuff or memes and so on. Up until that moment I haven’t really painted much of it. “
“That was the kind of key moment when I thought, ‘I’m going to take this a little more seriously.'”
He’s often described as Australia’s Banksy – which he thinks is just lazy journalism – but admits that there are some similarities in the way they use technology to build mass audiences and create media stunts.
“Why do something for a limited audience or just a subset?” he asks. “That’s what I feel about Banksy, he creates things that everyone can interpret and that one can laugh about.”
“It reaches a mass audience. So that’s the kind of thing I’ve been influenced by about his work, you know? “
Manipulation of the media
Around the time of the Dismaland show, Lush says he read a book about media manipulation and art and tried it out himself after Kim Kardashian “broke the internet” for the second time with a completely naked selfie in 2016. Lush immediately taped it over the largest wall he could find, then set about making a note of it.
“I started emailing and calling as many news outlets as I could and said I was the next door neighbor and that I’m not happy with that because I now have to look at her across the street every day.” It was taped on a conservative talkback radio station, then the story went viral. “If it hits the AP, or Reuters or whatever, you get global news out of it.”
He tried a similar trick later that year by painting Hilary Clinton as a pole dancer in a stars and stripes bikini. A mass coverage from Reddit got his Instagram account banned, so he bought the story to every journalist he could think of. When the local council requested the removal of the “obnoxious” work of art, they painted over it to put Clinton in a burqa, which gave the story more buoyancy.
“In general, when I get things successful, it’s just through a little bit of skull duggery, like creating some kind of story that you run along with a narrative and still go on with it for as long as I can.”
This was shown in his supposed “feud” with 50 cents.
“Of course, he only played it so that people would be more concerned with the contributions. They actually loved it; They reached out to me early on and said, ‘We love to keep doing things. We’ll keep posting and pretending we hate it. ‘”
Lush says he was really beaten up, but the incident had nothing to do with 50 cents.
“I was out preparing a wall for the next day and a group of these younger guys, graffiti guys, came up to me and were cheeky and I got into an argument with them. It was kind of a bummer. It was just a graffiti cow; it’s just part of the culture. It didn’t explicitly have anything to do with Fifty – that’s the funny thing. “
For Lush, NFTs are the beginning of something as massive as the dot-com boom.
“At the moment we are 100% living in this NFT boom and I am glad that I really made the decision. It’s just too cool not to have done that. “
One aspect that he loves is the fact that he can interact directly with collectors.
“All you have to do is contact them, say thank you, and develop a relationship early on. While in the traditional art world the galleries are basically there to block you, to keep you from getting to know one of those buyers … because that’s how they make a living. “
Unlike Banksy or Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lush doesn’t feel like he’ll ever be accepted by the more serious art circles – and he doesn’t care.
“I don’t think I was ever really 100% recognized by these people,” he says.
“But now with the NFT stuff and all that jazz, it’s not that important for me to be recognized in this world. To be honest, I’d rather find more recognition in this new, emerging world. “
The drop of Lushsux Instagram posts will begin on October 23rd on drp.io.