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NFT Art: Where Does The Industry Stand?

Author: Jeffrey Craig Date: May 18, 2022

Global art sales have fallen 22% since the start of the pandemic, but since spring 2021 NFT art has become a multi-million-dollar market, with CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, Beeple, EtherRocks, and Pudgy Penguins (to name a few) leading the way.

nft art

What is NFT Art?

NFT art is any digital artwork that’s been minted on the blockchain as an Non-Fungible Token (NFT), which can be bought and sold on NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea, Rarible, SuperRare, and Nifty Gateway.

Digital artwork remains just digital artwork until an NFT is minted and linked to it, but what do NFTs bring to online art markets? Essentially, NFTs can be usesd to prove the authenticity of digital works of art. This is because NFTs are unique assets, and the ownership of these tokens are practically impossible to falsify.

The Internet was built on a foundation of digital abundance, requiring artists and businesses to monetize their digital content in roundabout ways. NFTs bring digital scarcity into the equation, enabling artists and other content creators to connect with their audiences on a level previously unthinkable.

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What Are The Biggest NFT Art Sales?

Sales of NFT art were meager from 2018 to 2020. In 2020, the total sales involving NFTs within the art sector amounted to nearly $13 million dollars. This number was quickly surpassed in early 2021, when the Christie’s auction house sold a digital collage by American artist Beeple for $69.3 million dollars, the most expensive NFT sold to date, worldwide.

Top 10 Most Expensive NFT Art Purchases

Sale Price (millions) Name Sale Date Seller Buyer
$69.3 Everydays: the First 5000 Days March 11, 2021 Beeple Metakovan
$29 HUMAN ONE November 9, 2021 Beeple Ryan Zurrer
$11.8 CryptoPunk #7523 June 10, 2021 “Sillytuna” Unknown
$7.7 CryptoPunk #3100 March 11, 2021 Unknown Unknown
$7.6 CryptoPunk #7804 March 10, 2021 Unknown Unknown
$6.6 Beeple’s CROSSROAD February 25, 2021 Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile Delphina Leucas
$6 XCopy’s A Coin for the Ferryman November 4, 2021 “electricmeat” “jpeggy”
$6 Beeple’s OCEAN FRONT March 22, 2021 Justin Sun Justin Sun
$5.6 Cryptopunk #5217 July 30, 2021 “Snowfro” Unknown
$5.4 Edward Snowden’s Stay Free April 16, 2021 Edward Snowden PleasrDAO

From the list above, it’s clear that most of the top-grossing NFT artworks are from the likes of artists like Beeple and popular projects such as CryptoPunks.

Who Are The NFT Art Collectors?

Data suggests that most people collecting NFTs are men in their 20s and 30s. It appears much more unlikely for someone over the age of 60 to be involved in the NFT space. Most participants are millennials who are less risk-averse, and the average NFT collector has an income of over $150,000, hoping to make short-term profits using disposable income.

One report found the NFT space to be dominated by male artists, traders, investors, and enthusiasts. However, with the rise of new projects representing women and people of various faiths and cultures, the NFT space is starting to become more diverse.

One interesting reason why people collect NFTs is because it gives them certain perks and privileges. These range from discounted merchandise, airdrops, and limited edition items, to real-life meetups and VIP access to various exclusive venues. BAYC, for example, gives holders exclusive access to its Discord server, where the team announces new collections and airdrops, while also hosting real-life meetups regularly for club members.

Some people collect NFTs because they want to support their favorite projects, and some just like collecting things. This is far more common in sports NFT communities, where fans are keen to engage with their favorite teams and players through NFTs. The trade of rare collectibles has been around since long before the advent of NFTs, but blockchain makes it easier, more transparent, and more exciting than ever before.

Top-3 NFT Art Investors & Collectors

Here are some of the top NFT investors and collectors:

1 Metakovan

Vignesh Sundaresan, better known by his username Metakovan, is the man who bought the famed Beeple NFT. He is a widely successful entrepreneur and angel investor in blockchain technology. Sundaresan is also known for having set up Bitcoin ATMs in 18 countries. He was among the first investors of top crypto and NFT projects, including Ethereum, Polkadot, Dfinity, Flow, and Decentraland.

2 Pranksy

Pranksy is an NFT investor and one of the top hoarders of NBA Top Shots NFTs. Pranksy’s identity is unknown, but the individual’s also been involved in other top NFT projects like CryptoPunks, BAYC, and Women of World. Their wallet holds about $5 million worth of ETH and over 140 NFTs.

3 WhaleShark

WhaleShark is the world’s biggest NFT collectors with a collection of over 390,000 NFTs. He started investing in NFTs in 2019, and like Pranksy, WhaleShark’s real-life identity is also unclear. However, we do know that he’s a British-born Chinese man, and has his own DAO called The Whale Vault, which has over 20,000 members.

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NFT Creators: The Real MVPs

NFTs’ surge in popularity has been a godsend for artists and creators. On platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s very easy for art to be replicated and stolen. NFTs create a proof of ownership for artists and creators by linking their artworks to their unique wallet address which is available for the public to see.

Having a digital certificate of ownership also allows NFT creators to make money off of secondary sales. NFT creators also take advantage of the artificial scarcity created by NFTs by selling collectible artworks that are finite in supply.

Who are the Top NFT Artists?

Here are some of the top NFT artists:

  1. Mike Winkelmann: More popularly known as Beeple, Winkelmann is an American artist who sold the world’s most expensive NFT (so far) for $69 million. His art tends to contain social and political commentary, often through pop culture icons.
  2. Trevor Jones: Jones is a Scottish artist who has an average sale price of $5,326 on SuperRare, the highest on the NFT platform. His first NFT on the platform sold for $10,000, and last February 2021, his Bitcoin Angel NFT raked in an eye-watering $3.2 million. Last December 2021, he even collaborated with music sensation and film producer Ice Cube to produce a collection titled Man vs Machine.
  3. PAK: PAK is an anonymous artist who’s been active in the art world for over two decades. He has an average sale of $6,646. His highest-selling NFT generated a staggering $91.8 million in sales in December 2021, and Pak is also credited with introducing Beeple to NFTs in October 2020.
  4. 3LAU: DJ Justin (3LAU) Blau is an EDM artist who’s the co-founder of a music platform that lets people buy “music NFTs.” In March 2021, 3LAU sold a collection of 33 NFTs for nearly $12 million, including unreleased music, a special edition physical vinyl, and a custom song with the winner’s creative direction, an experience that was won by the top bidder for $3,666,666.
  5. Grimes: Grimes is another popular musician who sells music NFTs, bringing home $6 million from NFT sales in March 2021. The highest priced NFT, a music video called “Death of the Old,” sold for $389,000.
  6. Chiru Labs: Chiru Labs is a startup that’s known for creating the Azuki NFT collection. The team has deemed Azuki a “brand for the metaverse,” and the floor price for Azuki NFTs is currently 31 ETH (around $87,000).
  7. Jose Delbo: Delbo is an Argentinian artist who’s worked with DC and Marvel Comics. He released his first set of NFTs in 2020, a 43-page comic book which sold for $750 each.

To find out more about NFT artists and see their artworks, read Top 11 Highest NFT Selling Artists of All Time.

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Conclusion

NFTs don’t necessarily make art better, but it does help the art industry. Many of the most successful NFT artists were already well-established before they ventured into the world of NFTs, but with the help of blockchain technology, they’ve been able to reach otherwise unattainable heights, and by making it easier for artists and their audiences to interact and support each other, blockchain is supporting artists in a way that many will refuse to put a price on.


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