Depressing New Report Finds That Women Artists Accounted for Just 16 Percent of NFT Sales Over the Past 21 Months

The numbers are terrible—but are actually better than the traditional fine art market.

Grimes, Gods in Hi-res. Courtesy of the artist.
Grimes, Gods in Hi-res. Courtesy of the artist.

It remains to be seen if the NFT and crypto art trend has legs, but it appears this new sector of the art market is nearly as male-dominated as traditional auction sales. Women artists accounted for just 16 percent of Nifty Gateway’s NFT sales over the last 21 months, according to a new report from ArtTactic.

Given that the NFT world represents the intersection of art and technology, two overwhelmingly male-dominated realms, it might not come as a surprise that this number is so low.

Nevertheless, it would actually be a huge uptick for women artists if they were to ever make up 16 percent of fine art sales at auction: Just six women made the list of the 100 top-selling artists at auction in the first half of 2021, according to the most recent edition of the Artnet Intelligence Report, and between 2008 and June 2019, works by women represented a mere 2 percent of the $196.6 billion in total art auction sales.

Even if the NFT market is marginally more friendly for women artists, it is severely lacking in diversity in other ways, with artists from the U.S., the U.K., and Canada accounting for 73 percent of all 345 artists on Nifty Gateway, an online auction platform for NFTs owned by the Winklevoss twins. Los Angeles and New York have become the main global hubs, home to 16 percent and 15.8 percent of Nifty creators, respectively. South America and Asia claim 2.4 percent each, while Africa is home to just 1.2 percent of the platform’s artists.

Beeple, Everydays – The First 5000 Days. Courtesy of the artist and Christie's.

Beeple, Everydays – The First 5000 Days. Courtesy of the artist and Christie’s.

Tokini Peterside, founder of the Art X Lagos fair, is looking to boost the African presence on the crypto art scene with an NFT auction hosted by SuperRare featuring 10 artists of African descent during this year’s fair, which runs November 4–7, reports the Financial Times.

Women creators have also sought to carve out a place for themselves in the new NFT space, with artists Michele PredBud Snow, and Wildcat Ebony Brown launching an International Women’s Day sale on Opensea back in March. But despite their best efforts, none of their sales exceeded .6 ETH, the equivalent of just over $1,000 at the time.

ArtTactic founder Anders Petterson admitted that the company’s findings were “depressing,” writing in the report’s introduction, “Before we throw ourselves into the metaverse, it might be a good idea to stop and ask ourselves what we want this digital universe to look like, before we repeat our mistakes from the past.”

Wildcat Ebony Brown, <em>The Cosmic Love Connection 1: Levitation</em>. Courtesy of the artist.

Wildcat Ebony Brown, The Cosmic Love Connection 1: Levitation. Courtesy of the artist.

The ArtTactic report, which also looked at data from NFT sales by Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips, Foundation, and SuperRare, found that 55 percent of NFT sales were of work by just 16 artists. And the vast majority of all sales on Nifty Gateway—nearly 90 percent—are distributed among just 25 percent of its artists who have minted work on the platform.

The top three artists in total sales on the platform, it should come as no surprise, are Mike “Beeple” Winkelmann, Pak, and Mad Dog Jones—who had the first three NFT offerings at the major auction houses, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips, respectively. Beeple of course, fueled the craze with the $69 million sale of his Everydays – The First 5000 Days in March, becoming the world’s third-most expensive living artist. His receipts alone have claimed 15.2 percent of the market share on Nifty Gateway, a total of $50.8 million.

Only one woman artist is among the top 10 NFT artists by sales, and that is the musician Grimes, in sixth place. Her $8.9 million in NFT sales includes her sold-out “WarNymph Collection Vol. 1” drop in March, which notched $5.8 million in just 20 minutes.

Paris Hilton and Blake Kathryn, ICONIC CRYPTO QUEEN. Courtesy of the artists.

Paris Hilton and Blake Kathryn, ICONIC CRYPTO QUEEN. Courtesy of the artists.

The next-highest ranked woman artist, Jo-Ani Charland, is in 50th place, with total sales of $1.6 million. The comparative lack of success for women artists on Nifty Gateway comes despite the fact that the site actually launched in February 2020 with a single drop from Blake Kathryn, now the third-ranked woman artist, and 54th overall.

Individual NFT artists may not represent the future of the medium, however.

“Whilst the first boom in NFTs was largely focused around NFT art by single artists,” the report noted, “the recent boom in crypto collectibles, such as CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), suggests that collecting habits are moving towards a different type of NFT project focused on code-generated art (algorithmic art) aimed at generating communities of followers, buyers, and investors.”

Following the breakout sale of CryptoPunk #7523 for $11.8 million at Sotheby’s in June, CryptoPunks tallied $1.05 billion in sales between July and October of this year.

But while the NFT market continues to evolve, ArtTactic is confident it will continue to grow.

“The reason why NFTs are here to stay,” the report claims, “is because they radically change the concept of ownership of both digital and physical assets, and address issues that have dogged the art market for decades, such as provenance, title, authenticity, and fairer distribution of income.”


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