Biggest NFT Artists – and historical collections
|— The world of NFTs has been a hot topic with massive sales and huge artistic appeal for digital and traditional creatives and collectors. While new art might be emerging, it doesn’t necessarily come only from new artists.|
— Some of the artists in the NFT space have an incredible background in creating, with decades of experience, working with high-end performers and collaborating with other big-name celebrities.
— As more collectors look to NFTs, more artists will be given more opportunities to leverage blockchain to create and sell their art.
— Here we give you the ultimate guide to the biggest NFT artists, so you can enter the space with confidence.
NFTs are a the blockchain-powered tour de force that took art by storm in 2021. But who are the key names driving the movement, and why? Here, we present the biggest NFT artists.
The NFT space offers a totally different way to approach art. With a blockchain-enabled ecosystem, NFTs have created a cultural movement, appealing to a community that’s building up itself. Unlike other scenes, the NFT space, decentralized from any industry authorities, is driven by a highly engaged, dispersed community that plays a massive role in giving momentum to the artists.
It might be difficult to know where to turn if you’re not aware of the pillars, but by getting to know the foundation that makes the space (that is, the artists), you’re setting yourself up to really get a feel for NFTs – and what drives their community. In this article, we’ll go through the proverbial gallery of the most popular artists in the NFT space, exploring ten of the top-valued artists in the NFT market (in no particular order).
We would be remiss to begin anywhere else. The anonymous Pak may be a crypto artist, but beyond that, he or she is an experimental innovator who is constantly seeking to challenge our perceptions via emerging technology. With an identity shrouded in mystery, we don’t know the historical background of the digital artist. What we do know is that they’re behind the studio Undream and AI visual media curator Archillect, and it’s for certain: Pak has become one of the most interesting, game-changing artists to emerge in the space and to make a success of their art in the NFT realm.
What makes Pak so interesting?
Pak’s prominence comes from a particular flavour of art: There’s an element of irreverence in what they create and how they market their work. One collection, “The Title” features nine identical pieces, each with only two differences: The name, and the price. Yep, the same artwork sold at different values. It gives you insight into how Pak plays with the idea of value and pinpoints exactly how art is more than just art. It’s a representation of influence, culture, community and an industry that can market itself if done right. And Pak has consistently managed to get it right with their unusual ways of engaging with different mechanics. It’s a weird and wonderful way of unpacking the way people fall for hype around art – and an artist – and packs it in a neat bundle of discovery into what art is and how a collection can represent a whole lot more than just art.
Pak’s most famous collection was launched in April in collaboration with Sotheby’s. It began when Pak took to Twitter calling on auction houses to offer them a gift.
It was enigmatic and Sotheby’s stepped up to the plate, as unknown as it was. It led to a three-day auction of ‘The Fungible‘, the collection that saw a massive $17 million come in.
Pak’s twist on art and value was further highlighted with the Lost Poets collection. Selling what looked like a blank page, Pak’s Lost Poets went for 0.32 ETH, an amount that doubled over a weekend and has led to a $70 million sale overall. The beauty of the Lost Poets is that the page filled with art only when it was minted. Pak also rewarded those who bought the most pages with additional ones. The move is almost a nod to those who put their trust in the potential work and it’s played out stunningly for the collectors.
The latest to drop, The Merge has just closed its public sale and the mechanic is (as is a Pak classic) unusual. Built with increasing scarcity, the collection encourages collectors to buy more tokens for the artwork (mass) and each time they buy mass, it adds up automatically (or it “merges”). The more mass owned, the bigger their NFT will be visually. It’s like a puzzle and the more pieces collectors invest in, the bigger their picture is. The massive success of this series (it has gathered close to $100 million in sales) made Pak the most valuable art creator of today.
Mike Winkelmann is Beeple and he’s got a wealth of experience in graphics as a designer who works on digital artwork while throwing in elements of motion and movement with film and AR/VR work. He’s got a background of working on concert visuals for some pretty massive performance names like Justin Bieber, One Direction, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Zedd, and deadmau5.
Beeple is one of the original trendsetters of the “everyday” movement in graphics – creating and publishing a piece every single day, and he’s done this for the past decade.
His most famous NFT work, Everydays – The First 5000 Days, features a collage of the work that he’s created. Every. Single. Day. Since the beginning. It sold through an auction at Christie’s for a staggering $69 million, making him among the three most valuable living artists today.
Recently, Beeple’s Human One went for $29 million at a Christie’s auction. While the sale amount is still enough to make the eyes water, it’s not the most important element here: the piece itself is setting a new precedent in how interactive and dynamic NFT art can be. Human One shows an astronaut walking around in a glass box with a digitally programmed dystopian setting that changes depending on location, time, and global or local events. As things unfold, Beeple can reprogram the background to a completely different setting. It gives the piece the potential to act as an almost constant line of communication between the art and the audience. It means that the buyer didn’t just buy the NFT. Rather, they bought an art piece that connects them to the artist in a way like never before.
Like Pak, we don’t actually know who the artist is behind XCOPY’s art. The anonymous London-based artist takes a dystopian style to their digital art exploring the darker themes using distorted visual loops. XCOPY has become an iconic figure in the crypto space with the art featured on SuperRare from the launch on the platform (making them an OG in the cryptocurrency art space).
XCopy’s two-part iconic style
What gives XCOPY’s work the XCOPY factor lies in the specific style they use with motion. The illustrations themselves have a rough-around-the-edges trademark flavour, emphasising the dystopian theme, but the animation they use really brings this to life. XCOPY’s art adds the digital dynamic to digital art, with the flashing pixels painting a portrait of the path art can take.
Right now, XCOPY’s work is valued at $53,699,755.65 with A Coin for the Ferryman going for a cool $5,659,695.30.
FEWOCiOUS – Victor Langlois – was not even a fully-fledged adult when he started selling his art, with his first piece selling when he was just 17. His art is inspired by a complicated upbringing and a battle with identity. Art became a sanctuary that Victor could find safety behind and his art is emotion at the heart of it. FEWOCiOUS represents the story of success through adversity, it’s a hero tale unfolding and the art is one of the key ingredients to the charm.
Before he minted his artworks, the highest selling piece he sold went for $90 (and fun fact, that collector advised him to sell his work as NFTs). His first minted NFT went for $1500. Just a few days later, his work had increased in value by over 10 times his first NFT sale.
Now, at only 18, FEWOCiOUS stands as the third top-selling NFT artists.
With the enthusiasm of a young artist and the massive potential of a prodigy, we wouldn’t be surprised if FEWOCiOUS is a name taught in art school for years to come.
The creativity that crashed Christie’s
Their artwork “The Everlasting Beautiful” went for a whopping $550,000 and he gained such popularity that he crashed Christie’s site in June 2021 when buyers flooded to bid on a new series from the artist.
The collection, Hello, I’m Victor (FEWOCiOUS) and This Is My Life, took in an insane $2 million at auction at Christie’s. The five unique NFTs, with complementary paintings and never-before-seen doodles and diary entries, represent FEWOCiOUS’ artistic and emotional journey, showcasing pieces he created from 14 to 18 years.
Fewocious has found incredible success in the NFT world, highlighted by a recent collaboration with RTFKT (next-gen sneakers making massive waves in digital fashion).
“I use data as a pigment and paint with a painting brush that is assisted by artificial intelligence.”
That’s Refik’s opening line on his Ted Talks where he talks about his art in the day of technology evolution.
Refik was inspired by the architectural, futuristic landscape of Blade Runner and his work speaks to this. He works with not only artificial intelligence to produce work, but has also teamed up with architects, data scientists, neuroscientists, and musicians to explore what the future of creativity and collaboration can be. He uses data to create art that combines the physical and virtual worlds in an aesthetic rendition of artistic innovation.
The art of Anadol
Refik’s collection Machine Hallucinations is a collaboration with NASA, created for Sotheby’s. The collection blends over two million raw images that were recorded by space institutions across the world into six AI data-created paintings, one AR sculpture and an entire NFT room. The NFT room takes art to a brand new level with an immersive technology, bringing life to the work and the work to our lives so that we can interact with art, space, and technology all in one incredible place.
“Born amongst the communities of the web, a place where space and time no longer exist, “geographically agnostic”, where creators can stay anonymous, being judged only for their art, and where these judges are no longer a handful of experts selected by hierarchies.”
So speaks the bio page of artist duo Hackatao. The game behind the name: ‘Hack’ refers to exploring and discovering layers deeper than surface-level and “Tao” stands for Yin and Yang. And both elements speak to their artistic dynamic.
Hackatao was formed in 2007 and they use a variety of media to create artwork. In 2018, they began storing their work on the blockchain and quickly thrived in the cryptocurrency artspace as a result of how active and involved they are in the blockchain-based art scene.
The Work of Hackatao
Hackatao’s artistic journey started with the creation of their Podmorks, little ceramic totem-shaped creatures decorated with drawings. Like the subsequent NFT work of Hackatoa, their Podmorks were a collage of interwoven pattern and colour. In 2018, they embraced the world of crypto art and their first NFT, Girl Next door. an animated GIF and is a bold entrance that challenges traditional art with strong modern style and a stronger explicit commentary.
The piece changed hands last year for $20,503 (38 ETH at the time), two years after minting the NFT. The initial sale brought Hackatao $207 (0.423 ETH at the time). That’s an increase of over 9804%. Their art has gained enormous traction, bearing elements of the digital world with new characters, music commissions, and layers of expertise added in.
Mad Dog Jones
Michah Dowbak launched his artistic career in 2017, using Instagram as a platform for exposure, gaining a massive following in just a couple of years. Mad Dog’s graphic style is deeply inspired by cyberpunk and Japanese animation, portraying dystopian sci-fi scenes in an Asian metropolitan setting. The cyberpunk style aligns so neatly with the first iteration of the Metaverse, portrayed in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Mad Dog’s art style, with the digital dynamic is emphasised in sincerity by his approach to the emerging possibilities that the digital world offers:
“Thinking about the traditional way to enter the art market is a little bit silly. It’s a little dated because the internet is opening up the world… The tools that I have accessible to me are the internet.”
Mad Dog Jones’ Collaborations and Claims to Fame
Hand-drawn or photography rendered and illustrated over, his work has exploded and he’s worked with names including Maroon 5, Diesel, Run The Jewels, Jabbawockeez, Chromeo, Conor McGregor, and Deadmau5.
Earlier this year, Mad Dog Jones sold ‘REPLICATOR’ for $4.1 million at Phillips auction house. Not only did it stand as one of the biggest NFT sales at the time, but it also was the first NFT piece that Phillips put up, cementing Mad Dog as one of the firsts in the scene and marking Phillips as one of the earliest auction houses to take up the innovative art.
Ever wanted to see Warren Buffet as a 3D render with a flavour of digital distortion? Look no further than Coldie.
Coldie’s artwork has been featured in national art exhibitions, crypto conferences, and live auctions. It has a particular style of portraiture that has been distorted,
Buffet and a band
Fun fact! Coldie was one of the first artists to put his work on the blockchain and auction it online, making him a NFT pioneer. His work has a floor price of 36 ETH (around $4 275) with his Decentral Eyes collection featuring the famous Warren Buffet pieces. The “undead” collection, however, has made waves across both crypto art and the goth rock scenes with Coldie collaborating with four-piece outfit Bauhaus.
“This is the future. This is the now.” – Bauhaus
The two artistic entities teamed up to create a series of 3D NFTs that features Coldie’s art and Bauhaus’ music in a dramatic collection of artistic expression. It’s an eclectic merge of subcultures, art, music. And it draws a person in with how delightful experimental it is and just how well that works in the industry.
Trevor Jones likes to paint. He also likes to animate. So his work features both. He went to art school in his thirties following a period of depression – saying he saw it as a way of “atoning” – and cultivated a career in creativity for years while working numerous other jobs to stay afloat. Like XCOPY, a lot of Jones’ style comes from the dynamic, animated component of his work and he thrives when it comes to innovation in art – one of his prior collections featured paintings of QR codes, so the boundary-pushing world of NFTs perfectly suited his style. He refers to his foray into the world of NFT art as “a crazy success story.”
Bullish prices in the artwork of Trevor Jones
He has the highest average sales on SuperRare (with his pieces going for an average of just over $5,300) and his first NFT sold on the platform for over $10,000. His most acclaimed to date, The Bitcoin Bull animation sold on Nifty Gateway for a stunning $55,555.55.
His first work in the NFT realm saw him use AR to transform paintings at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery into crypto icons.
“I have no idea what the National Gallery of Scotland will think about this. I haven’t told them what I’ve done…”
It was a digital rebellion without any harm to the original pieces and the move made waves, putting Jones on the map.
Since then, he’s collaborated with crypto artist Pak. His work with Pak sees the anonymous artist’s cutting minimalism and Jones’ expressive, emotional pieces entrenched in traditional influence. The collaboration is a blend of two opposing ends of art and it works spectacularly.
Most recently, Jones teamed up with rapper and filmmaker Ice Cube to work on a seven-month long creative project. The collection is a combination of their creative abilities that explore, experiment with different subjects, styles and concepts. It’s a fusion of media including painting, music, animation, and digital innovation.
Frederic Duquette, or FVCKRENDER, has earned his place among the biggest NFT artists, beginning his art career in his spare time while working a restaurant job. In 2016, he was in a bicycle accident and had injuries and taught himself how to use 3D art software. He set himself the task to create at least one piece a day, crafting a unique style that would lead to the popularity he’s got today.
Living in Montreal, where illustration art is a big theme, one of FVCKRENDER’s biggest aims is to highlight the potential of digital art. His art has evolved and is dynamic but often features crystalline arrangements and surrealist landscapes, innovatively using dynamic compositions with a hint of hyper-futuristic flavour.
FVCKRENDER’s collabs and collections at Christie’s
He’s worked with some pretty hard-hitting names like Katy Perry, Lil Nas X, Lebron James, and brands including Puma, Spotify, Instagram, and Supreme. He’s joked that one of his biggest problems is saying no to collaborations, a “problem” that’s landed some pretty incredible collaborations on his lap.
One of his biggest NFT collaborations is with Zedd and Gabe Damast. The collection, ANTIPODE, is a blend of art and music with an audio-first-visual-second and vice versa approach to the artwork.
“ANTIPODE means “the direct opposite to something” and the idea was for both pieces to live in the same universe but to be directly opposing.” – Zedd
FVCKRENDER’s work has also been featured at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, as the art auction houses started to dip their toes into the crypto-art space. In May, Sotheby’s sold SHIFT// for $107,100.
NFTs and art: the massive implication behind the quick explosion
One of the most exciting parts of the world of NFTs is how rapidly they’ve garnered attention, with the artists gaining an accelerated wealth of support from cryptocurrency and blockchain enthusiasts.
With an overview of this emerging space, and the biggest NFT artists who are shaping is for everyone, you’re now equipped to start exploring yourself!
The space itself is remarkably curious, and – with how interactive it is – it rewards curiosity. If we can leave you with one thing, it’d be to explore the rabbit hole with wide eyes and an open mind, engage with both the artists and the art. This is just the tip of the digital creative iceberg and the more you discover, the more you’ll find you want to explore it.