Crypto art now accounts for roughly 10% of global art market sales. This shocking figure, from a new report by Ethereum software company ConsenSys, comes with its fair share of caveats (e.g., NFTs enjoyed a media-hyped frenzy at a time when most physical galleries had to close). Still, the emerging digital art market is now fully legit, with NFTs topping $2 billion in first-quarter sales alone. Digital content creators are flocking to NFT marketplaces, and forward-thinking collectors are scooping up original works authenticated on the blockchain.
Whether you’re looking to buy or sell NFTs, these are the digital platforms you need to know and some of the artists worth following.
For the mainstream media, NFT hysteria kicked off in February when Beeple sold CROSSROAD for a then-record $6.6 million. Who hosted the landmark auction? Nifty Gateway. This platform currently leads in sales volume and hosts many of the celebrity drops you hear about in the Twitterverse. Nifty leverages “open editions”—an unlimited number of editions created for a finite period of time—that are sold at a base price. Once the window closes, no more of that NFT is ever issued. This has led to a vibrant secondary market and the emergence of novel releases, including “packs” or NFT drops with different rarities received at the time of purchase. Fiat (i.e., government-issued currency) on-ramps allow collectors to purchase NFTs with a credit card, which is huge in terms of onboarding new users who haven’t used cryptocurrency before. On the trivia tip, the Winklevoss twins of Facebook fame, Cameron and Tyler, acquired the platform in 2019 from another set of identical twins.
Artists to follow: Beeple, Pak, Ron English, Greg Mike, Michael Kagan
In music terms, if Nifty Gateway is a major record label popping out radio hits, SuperRare is a critically acclaimed indie a la ’90s-era Sub Pop or Matador Records. In other words, SuperRare is an art-first platform with mad credibility. This highly selective platform seems uninterested in celebrity contributors and reportedly accepts less than 1% of all artists who apply, making SuperRare one of the most desirable platforms in crypto art. For the chosen few who are accepted, artists can only mint one of one originals (so no editions) for greater exclusivity and scarcity, and SuperRare makes an effort to build communities and support its artists. For serious artists and art fans, this is the place to be.
Artists to follow: PRØHBTD, Eclectic Method, Trevor Jones, Mr. Misang, MiraRuido
Launched in February 2020, this platform is known for “programmable art,” a growing movement that presents an opportunity to tap into art galleries and institutions. What is meant by programmable art? Each piece has a master that consists of a set number of individual layers, and while the collector is able to own the master, collectors can own the individual layers and adjust their attributes over time. Layers are endowed with special abilities decided by the artist, and when someone changes something on a layer, the master image will reflect this change regardless of who owns it. Changes to the layers can be driven by current events such as the weather, the stock market or an election. For instance, if it’s raining outside, a “weather” layer can reflect the rain in the master. See the controversial Amelia Earhart mystery piece as an example of what can be done with Async.
Artists to follow: XCOPY, Alotta Money, Hussam Eissa, Natacha Einat, Bryan Brinkman
This platform is known for high-profile collaborations with respected traditional art creators and institutions, most famously with Shu Lea Cheang and Christie’s auction house. The latter set the current sales record, nearly $70 million, by auctioning Beeple’s Everydays: The First 5000 Days masterwork last March. MakersPlace produces a daily email that makes customized buying suggestions based on user preferences.
Artists to follow: Cyber Shakti, Shay The Surrealist, Stellabelle, Murat Sayginer
This curated gallery specializes in timed-release events (“drops”), and the artist controls the number of copies that are released, which can be used to create scarcity and drive up prices. Artists must submit an application to become a creator, but right now artist submissions are closed.
Artists to follow: Lucho Poletti, Ola Volo, Stina Jones, CrypticFauna
Foundation is a community-curated platform that works with unique creators (notably in the alternative music and art scenes) and boasts a distinct aesthetic that focuses on cutting-edge and slightly off-kilter creators, including Edward Snowden. To join Foundation as a content creator, an artist must receive an invite from another artist, and each artist only receives one invite to share. This helps create an artist-curated and -driven collective, though some artists, unfortunately, try to sell their invite to others.
Artists to follow: Jen Stark, pplpleasr, Joshua Teplitz, Ix shells, Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor
Zora, previously an invite-only platform like Foundation, is now open to the public, and it’s known for its ease of use and ability to buy/sell tokens directly without having to interface through other platforms. Zora auctions are perpetual, anyone can bid in any currency and the owner can accept any bid. In one of its more notable releases, Zora auctioned a digital and physical copy of RAC’s BOY album on an old-school cassette. RAC limited the drop to 70 units and opened the bids at $20, and the price of the most recent trade was $3,388.
Artists to follow: Rin, FVCKRENDER, Typeflood
OpenSea is the OG of NFT platforms, featuring all kinds of digital art, virtual world items, sports trading cards and gaming collectibles with variety and transaction volume that eclipses that of any other similar platform. This truly decentralized exchange accepts a wide range of different cryptocurrencies and has become popular as a global secondary market on any and all NFTs that exist today. OpenSea is open to all, so no application or invite is needed.
Artists to follow: Josie Bellini, cryptoPOM, Indivisibility
Creators can sell both single items and collections on Rarible, which is underpinned by a governance token (RARI) that gives users the ability to vote on changes to the protocol. Anyone can mint an NFT on Rarible, and everyone from Mark Cuban to Soulja Boy has. Rarible-hosted NFTs are cross-listed on OpenSea for greater exposure.
Artists to follow: Robness Virtual, Liŕona, Ravicon
Not all platforms are artist-driven, and Mintable, like Mintbase and Terra Virtua below, focus more on digital collectibles. Launched this year, Mintable is a user-friendly digital marketplace platform to buy, sell and trade assets on the Zilliqa blockchain. Content creators can easily turn artwork, music, PDFs, images and other files into an item that lives on the blockchain and create a smart contract without having to worry about coding it themselves.
This platform provides minters with various creative allocation and redemption mechanisms for their customers. You can still mint art, tickets, music and other assets here and then move them to OpenSea and sell them there.
With a strong focus on the social side of the fandom scene, Terra Virtua provides a number of customizable virtual spaces where users can show off their digital NFT collections, including movie, music and sports memorabilia. Terra Virtua, whose partners include Paramount Pictures, Legendary Entertainment and Unreal Engine, already has signed deals for intellectual properties such as Top Gun, Lost In Space and The Godfather.
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