NFT Art Market Boom Is Overwhelmingly Benefiting Male Creators

This summer, when Fame Lady Squad launched, claiming to be the first ever female-led crypto art collective, it quickly raised $1.5 million from people who wanted to support underrepresented artists.

Weeks later, it turned out, the group was actually run by men.

After an uproar, the founders handed over control to a group of women, but the incident hinted at deeper gender disparities in the digital art market: Male artists are overwhelmingly cashing out on the NFT art boom.

Over the last 21 months, female artists accounted for just 5% of all NFT art sales, a new report released this month by research agency Art Tactic found. (Though, gender was unknown for 16% of transactions.) They also made much less money for their work, too. Grimes, the musician, is the only woman to crack the top 10 in dollars earned over that time frame. Three-quarters of all the money made went to male artists, according to the report, which analyzed market activity through Nifty Gateway, a digital-art auction platform.

An NFT, which stands for non-fungible token, is a certificate of authenticity that conveys ownership in a digital asset like an artwork. Unlike traditional art, NFTs can be structured in a way that allows artists to make money on sales in the secondary market. The crypto art market, while volatile, has had a record-breaking year, generating $3.5 billion in sales just in the first 9 months of 2021.

Crypto art has been touted as a great democratizer of a notoriously walled-off world. It allows artists to sidestep many of the gatekeepers, such as collectors and gallerists that hold sway over most traditional big-ticket sales, showings, and museum exhibitions. One study found that 87% of artists showcased in major museums were male and 85% were White. Yet, this new data suggests the NFT market is failing to live up to that promise.

“We’ve been working so hard to build resources for women,” said Danielle Davis, an artist who’s part of the leadership team that took over the Fame Lady Squad in August. She created a website with basics on breaking into the space and a podcast targeted at women.