Nina Chanel Abney Dropped a CryptoPunks Collection Calling Out Online Hate. She Got Hated On in Return

The project was created by Abney for the NFT brand's inaugural residency program.

One of the avatars in Super Punk World by Nina Chanel Abney. Photo courtesy of

Yesterday, May 20, CryptoPunks unveiled the first collection to emerge from its Punk in Residency program, created by its inaugural resident artist, Nina Chanel Abney. In a post on X, the NFT brand touted the drop as being “as playful as it is profound,” but crypto collectors are begging to differ. 

Titled Super Punk World, Abney’s collection features 500 avatars, depicted in 8-bit style, bearing traits that were hand-cut by the artist, digitized, and randomly generated. The project mashes up attributes from CryptoPunks with Abney’s own Super Cool World, the 5,080-piece digital art collection she dropped in 2022 with Gallery of Digital Assets, which she co-founded with Pharrell Williams.  

These new avatars also challenge the boundaries of race and gender, presenting hybridized characters to challenge what Abney sees as the disparate pricing for avatars based on gender and skin tone. In a description, her new NFTs are further characterized as challenging the “tendency to stay hidden, to remain silent, and to avoid confrontation via deliberate concealment and the opaque self-fashioning prevalent in digital spaces and in-person interactions.”

The project is in line with Abney’s desire to open the digital art space, one that studies have found largely skews male, to underrepresented communities. “There is a lack of diversity for people of color, queer people, women involved in the digital asset space, or [they’re] not getting recognized enough,” she said in 2023. “I know so many artists that are interested in the space, but are scared to go forward because it can seem overwhelming and confusing.” 

A graphic with a blue background, the words "Super Punk World," and random cartoon objects including 3D glasses, a police hat, and a pink wig.

Nina Chanel Abney’s Super Punk World collection for CryptoPunks. Photo courtesy of Yuga Labs.

The collection is currently on view as part of Abney’s “LIE DOGGO” exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery in Kinderhook, New York (through October 5). It is also due for a Dutch auction on May 29, where collectors can acquire both 2D versions and 3D models of the avatars. 

But the reveal of Super Punk World has not gone down well with CryptoPunks fans and holders. On social media, the resident program has been blasted as “shortsighted” and a “low quality cash grab.” Some others have taken aim at the collection, protesting what they deem a “woke” exercise with “cringe identity politics.”

In response, Greg Solano, co-founder of Yuga Labs, which owns CryptoPunks, issued a statement on X emphasizing the company’s intentions behind its residency program.

“Nina Chanel is known for her graphic large-scale pieces with bold and colorful palettes. Her work is everywhere: MoMA, the Whitney, you name it,” he wrote. “Matt [Hall] and John [Watkinson, creators of CryptoPunks] were ecstatic to learn that she would be a CryptoPunks artist in residence, and so was the team.” 

He announced a “plan… to get Nina’s latest collection into the hands of those who have been supporting her work in this space by making it available only to SuperCoolWorld holders,” possibly via a “randomized airdrop.” Artnet News has reached out to Yuga Labs for clarification on if or how such a plan might impact the forthcoming Dutch auction, but did not hear back by press time. 

Solano also appeared to distance Yuga Labs from the Punk in Residency program moving forward. “Yuga will no longer touch punks. They will just be decentralized and preserved on the blockchain,” he said, adding that the company will now only support museum acquisitions and education around the collection. 

In a following post on X, Abney expressed appreciation for Solano’s support and denounced the “racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic comments” that the project has received. “What’s really at the underbelly of this space?” she asked. 

She added: “Now more than ever, I will continue my mission toward an inclusive community where everyone is accepted, and ideas that spark productive dialogue are welcomed. No hate tolerated.” 

Abney is best known for her figurative compositions that employ an energetic Pop aesthetic to interrogate current events, sexuality, and racial conflict. Her work is in the collections of institutions including the Rubell Museum, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. “LIE DOGGO” showcases her latest body of work, which continues her untangling of contemporary power dynamics through site-specific murals, collages, and sculptures.  

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