The French photographer Hugo Comte will launch three major projects over the next three weeks. Two days ago, he announced the launch of $Nikita, a token proprietary digital, backed by P00ls. Today will begin an exhibition of his work alongside the stylist Ib Kamara at the Galerie Hussenot in Paris. Then on February 17, Dear Nikita will be launched, her clothing line, designed in collaboration with Lois Saunders, a graduate of Central Saint Martins. A hyperactivity of which we ask him the secret, during our meeting on Zoom night from Paris. His only response: “I don’t even drink caffeine.”
What motivates Hugo Comte, it is a furious, passionate desire to demystify his art. His rise to stardom coincides with the first lockdown, when face-to-face life came to a halt, pushing us to explore the darkest corners of the internet. After shooting the photo for the album cover Future Nostalgia from Dua Lipa, Hugo Comte saw new fans following him obsessively on social media. He publishes images of photo shoots for Vogue, series for 032c or his campaigns for Bulgarian, Zara et Heaven by Marc Jacobs. “I have 180,000 followers on Instagram, and they can see my work, but I don’t see them,” he says. I want to completely change that, rethink the way I interact with my community.”
An artist at the bedside of his community
Quoting Virgil Abloh as inspiration for how the late creator used architecture as a framework to create physical and digital communities, Hugo Comte explains the first part of its world domination program: the $Nikita token. Although it is technically a digital currency, it is not a question here of exchanging dogecoins for shares, but rather of uniting the fans of the photographer. Visitors to its site can thus acquire tokens, and the more they participate, the more they have access to premium content: behind-the-scenes photos, masterclasses, podcasts and discussions.
“It’s a way to create a bridge between my audiences: that of pop-culture, that of haute couture, and that of crypto,” he explains. “All of these audiences need each other, so for me it’s really about building that bridge. I would like to offer something a little more open, more accessible.“
With this operation, Hugo Comte regains control of his creativity: he no longer needs to rely on magazines, social networks or other artists to promote his projects. By uniting his community around him, Hugo Comte reclaims his work, but also the storytelling that accompanies it. “What’s interesting to me about P00ls is that they don’t really have any competition,” says Hugo Comte. It’s very new, and what I love about it is that money is no longer the single currency. It’s as if your taste became the bargaining chip: your ability to unearth talents and potential becomes the bargaining chip. Your loyalty to artists becomes a motto. I really like this idea.”
The first followers of $Nikita will have the opportunity to use their tokens this evening at the opening of the “Testament” exhibition in Paris. Token holders will have access to an exclusive Q&A session with Comte and Kamara. The two men will have a lot to say to each other. The visuals of the exhibition, made almost a year ago, are representations of their respective journeys: Kamara is originally from Sierra Leone, which he left for Gambia, before settling in London where he worked as a stylist before becoming editor-in-chief of Dazed in 2019. The photographer’s father is from Algeria and his mother from the Caribbean, and while he is of mixed descent, he nevertheless enjoys white privilege in Europe and abroad. “The exhibition started from a desire for me to make sense of who I am in my work, because I think I had a tendency to really create a gap between what I do and who I am“, he said.