The history of artists using NFTs began long before the appearance of art marketplaces on Ethereum. Indeed, as early as 2015, artists were already selling their digital works on the NFT marketplace Counterparty, especially with the satirical frogs Rarepepes. Through them, an artistic movement was born: crypto-art. This movement was carried out for many years by a handful of artists determined to promote the libertarian values of cryptocurrency. To better understand what this movement means, we invite you to read our article on the crypto-art movement. For an overview, please continue here.
In March and April 2018 respectively, SuperRare and Known Origin opened their doors to offer digital artists the opportunity to sell their artworks in a much more accessible way than Counterparty. A year later, a third marketplace was created, Makersplace. Unlike OpenSea, these platforms have a curation system. It is therefore necessary to meet certain conditions before being onboarded.
While crypto-artists belong to an artistic movement with well-defined codes, artists using NFTs often adhere to different ideas and values. For example, curation at the entrance goes against the very principle of openness advocated by cryptocurrencies. The term “NFT artists” has therefore appeared to differentiate these new artists using the blockchain to sell their artworks.
After Beeple’s artwork “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” was sold to the Metapurse Fund in March 2021 (we were assessing the total value of Metapurse’s portfolio at the time), we have seen a race for popularity and a strong, growing marketing presence in the artistic NFT market.
It can be hard to know who the most popular NFT artists in the ecosystem are, but fortunately, a beginning of an answer can be found thanks to the data!
Here is the methodology we used to process this data:
The total dollar volume of sales provides a first glimpse of the state of the market. With a total volume of more than US$61 million, XCOPY is by far the best-rated NFT artist in the ecosystem. Robbie Barrat came in second with a volume of more than $9 million, followed by the duo Hackatao with $7,8 million.
The founder of The Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, has been serving his sentence in prison since 2015. From his jail, Ross draws regularly and in 2021, he decided to auction off some of his drawings for charitable purposes and raise funds to pay for his lawyer. The fundraising to support Ross Ulbricht‘s fight in 2021 allowed this initiative to raise $6.5 million and place 5th in the ranking. That same year, Time auctioned some of its iconic covers and raised $2.6 million.
The USD indicator alone is not enough to determine the popularity of an artist. It must be combined with other indicators such as the total number of sales. This allows a more accurate, robust view of the liquidity of collections and greater insight into whether many users might have owned an NFT by the artist or not.
Thanks to the volume of the number of sales, several elements stand out in relation to the USD volume:
It is therefore extremely difficult to answer precisely the question “who are the most popular NFT artists?” with data alone. In the next chapter, we will discover more artists who are not on a “data top list” but we believe their artwork made NFT history on Ethereum.
To know more about the most popular artists according to the data, don’t hesitate to make deeper research:
Being a popular artist doesn’t necessarily mean being able to sell very expensive works of art or selling a lot of them. Many artists have built the ecosystem since 2018 and continue to influence its development. To pay tribute to these “builders”, we offer you a selection of artists who, in our opinion, have strongly participated in the adoption of NFTs as art.
The USD volumes of these artists are far from matching those at the top of the rankings. But each of them has a significant history, a strong identity, and a significant contribution to the ecosystem.
All of them participated in their own way in the “NFT art” movement, always with style:
Each artist and style presents very different values at first, yet they all have the same objective: to explore and promote the potential of Web3 to as many people as possible via the beauty of NFTs.
We invite you to follow all these projects and artists and do some research about them, the values they promote, and the message they want to share. Here are the links to their artworks:
Of course, there are more NFT artists to discover! The most important thing with art is to find an artist you like and more importantly, an artwork that you love. Art does not respond to a logic of profitability but of authenticity. Artists popular today may not be popular tomorrow.
However, thanks to NFTs, their creations will remain on the blockchain for life… as long as they are not held on a centralized server that looses the image!