In brief

  • Over $80 million in crypto art has been sold, with no end in sight to the boom.
  • Popular artists include Beeple and Pak. Their artworks can fetch up to $777,000 each.
  • The number of marketplaces is also growing, and Gemini's Nifty Gateway is leading the pack.

The total value of the crypto art market today reached a record $80 million—and rising fast—with over 60,000 artworks sold to date.

According to data from Cryptoart.io, January’s volume, alone, is approaching $12 million, and—judging by current trends—that’s likely to be surpassed in February, with the prices being paid reflecting skyrocketing demand.

crypto art data
Crypto marketplace volumes are on the rise. Image: Cryptoart.io

Crypto art relies on non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, which are usually issued with an Ethereum token, ERC-721. This ensures verifiable digital scarcity; each artwork is a uniquely distinguishable digital asset—no two are the same. 

The most expensive artwork to date is “THE COMPLETE MF COLLECTION,” of 20 artworks by Beeple. The digital artist and graphic designer makes video content and concert visuals for Nicki Minaj and Eminem. He is also currently the most popular crypto artist.

His MF Collection work was sold for $777,777 in December 2020, on the Gemini crypto exchange marketplace Nifty Gateway, to Tim Kang—who goes by the pseudonym “Illestrater.” It’s viewable on cryptoart.io, which features live data on all the most popular artists.  

top crypto artists
The top 10 crypto artists. Image: Cryptoart.io

Beeple (real name, Mike Winkelman) has sold 824 works, with a total value of almost $7 million. 

“I'm honestly just trying to make the fucking dopest thing that people will pay the most for,” the artist told Decrypt in December. 

Nifty Gateway is the current marketplace leader in sales volume. Its biggest selling points are its regular NFT airdrops, and the fact that it allows the artworks to be purchased with fiat.

The second best-selling artist is Pak, who’s not far behind Beeple. Pak has sold 1,630 artworks, with a total value of $5.2 million. Pak’s highest sale was for “Base,” which went for $166,267. 

Pak Terminus collection
Terminus is a collection of five original Pak artworks that shines a light on the complex nature of stark simplicity.

At least part of the appeal is down to the mystery that surrounds the pseudo-anonymous artist, who may not even be a real person but a collective or even an AI constructed by a team of engineers.

In third place is Trevor Jones, a traditional and crypto artist from Edinburgh, Scotland. His biggest sale (and the all-time, second-largest sale) was a collaboration with another comic book and crypto artist, José Delbo. 

Batman artwork
Batman art drawn by Jose Delbo and Trevor Jones. Image: Delbo/Jones/MakersPlace

Jones wrote that he applied and photographed consecutive images that “could then be layered like brush strokes” over Delbo’s original drawing. The aim was to give the “impression that this was one continuous artwork from pencil, to ink, to completed painting.”The batman figure which emerges allows the viewer to see the artist at work, but, in the end, “only the bat escapes.” 

The work sold to a collector named “maxstealth’ for $499,197 on MakersPlace. 

NFT platforms are proliferating 

As well as MakersPlace and Nifty Gateway there are now almost 50 different platforms for creating and selling digital art.

NFT marketplaces
NFT marketplaces. Image: Cooper Turley

One of the most popular is SuperRare, and the platform’s volume is about to hit $10 million. 

Rarible allows anyone to issue an NFT, and celebrities including rapper Soulja Boy and Dallas Mavericks basketball team owner Mark Cuban have had a go. 

The original NFT platform is OpenSea—an emporium featuring all kinds of digital art, virtual world items, sports trading cards, as well as gaming collectibles. Its most popular NFTs right now are “CryptoPunks.”

Just an ape wearing a knitted cap
Just an ape wearing a knitted cap. Image: LarvaLabs

One “alien” CryptoPunk fetched $750,000, when it was bought by a crypto art collective called FlamingoDAO (with DAO standing for decentralized autonomous organization).

This NFT market’s capacity for innovation knows no bounds, and artists are innovating with music, fused with art and popular culture—a medium popularized by 3LAU.

And NFT mania hit new heights this month when Ethereum-based project Hashmasks saw 16,000 pieces of NFT art sell for $9 million.

But even as this young market emerges, already its ecological impact is making waves.  According to one researcher, the footprint of just one single-edition NFT is equivalent to an EU resident’s total electric power consumption in one month.