It goes without saying that NFTs have blown up over the course of the last year, popularised by early proponents such as Grimes and a controversial artist called Beeple. More recently, they’ve been picked up by everyone from David Lynch to Lil Nas X, and from fashion designers to the faces of OG memes.
The nonfungible tokens are often touted as an antidote to the stuffy, elitist mannerisms of the traditional art market. Unfortunately (if not surprisingly), however, it seems that they don’t do much to solve its issues regarding representation.
According to a new report from the research firm ArtTactic, women make up just 16 per cent of the NFT market, based on primary and secondary market sales via the marketplace Nifty Gateway over the last 21 months. Of these sales, male artists apparently account for 77 per cent (or $258.3 million).
As the Art Newspaper points out, the traditional art market’s “winner takes all” mentality is still very much alive in the metaverse as well, running contrary to NFT fans’ optimism about their ability to democratise the art world. Reportedly, 55 per cent of all sales over the given time period were raised by just 5 per cent of artists (a grand total of 16 individual artists).
Currently, the top three spots on the NFT market are occupied by the US artist Beeple (real name Mike Winkelman), the anonymous artist Pak, and Canada’s Mad Dog Jones. Earlier this year, Beeple sold a collage of digital images — which, on closer inspection, were peppered with racist, misogynistic, and homophobic imagery — for $69,400,000, placing it alongside works by Jeff Koons and David Hockney as one of the most expensive artworks by a living artist.
Artist and musician Grimes — who auctioned 10 pieces of original crypto art, WarNymph Collection Vol. 1, via Nifty Gateway back in March — is the only known female artist to crack the top 10. Altogether, her sales total $8.9 million to date.
Another disappointing finding from the ArtTactic report is the geographical divide in NFT sales. US, British, and Canadian artists accounted for 73 per cent of global sales since February 2020, it says (though Nifty Gateway is based in the US, likely leading the data to skew toward the Global North). Nevertheless, artists from countries in Africa and Latin America are responsible for just 3.6 per cent of the platform’s total sales.