NFT Art Market Boom Is Overwhelmingly Benefiting Male Creators
(Bloomberg) -- 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.
The continued gender disparities were on full display at last week’s NFT.NYC conference. Women made up only around 18% of speakers, said Jodee Rich, co-founder of the conference and chief executive officer of NFT.Kred, a platform for NFT brands and influencers. Just 30% of sponsor exhibits had women, versus 70% men, said Julie Lamb, the event’s volunteer coordinator. Attendees were overwhelmingly male, too, estimated Rich.
NFT art sales might see even bigger gender disparities because of who tends to buy in that market, said Amy Whitaker an assistant professor at New York University, who studies economic sustainability for artists. “Not to paint with too broad a brush, early HODL crypto investors skew toward what we might call tech bros,” she said.
Kelly LeValley Hunt, chief executive officer of Mint Gold Dust, an NFT platform that connects creators with collectors, said, at times, she’s the only woman in meetings or on panels. At the German CeBIT Tech Expo in 2016, where she was invited to speak, a male attendee handed her his espresso cup after he was done drinking it.
At last week’s NFT.NYC event, a group of men waiting in line to get into the conference asked if she knew what an NFT was. They apologized after she introduced herself.
“I still get asked silly questions,” she said. “Hopefully in another five years, it will get a bit better.”
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