To kick off Women’s History Month this year, Christie’s sold a rare NFT, created by the digital illustrator Yam Karkai as part of the World of Women collection. Woman #5672 featured a portrait of a woman with gold earrings, a tuxedo, a black bob, and purple skin—that last one being a trait shared by only 0.85% of portraits in the collection. Originally, all the WoW portraits were priced at 0.07 ETH, or around $225. At Christie’s, Woman #5672 sold for $760,347.
WoW was launched, in part, because women remain underrepresented in the NFT space. In November of 2021, a report from the research firm ArtTactic found that women comprise only 16% of the NFT market, based on primary and secondary sales on Nifty Gateway over the course of 21 months. The numbers also revealed that Grimes was the only known female-identifying artist to reach the top ten rankings. Conversely, male artists made up 77% of primary and secondary sales.
This gender imbalance is not new. According to the Artnet Intelligence Report, just six women cracked the list of top-selling artists in the first half of last year. What’s more, a joint investigation by In Other Words and artnet News found that art by women accounted for only 2% of a whopping $196.6 billion in total art auction sales from 2008 through 2019.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that female-identifying and non-binary artists aren’t present in the space, and many have been active in championing greater diversity in the field. One prominent community, Women of Crypto Art (WOCA), was built by artists and collectors to support those entering the world of NFTs.
Through exhibitions and articles, they amplify some of the most inspiring female voices in the space, while their educational resources make the world of crypto art feel more accessible to newcomers. WOCA’s first exhibition, She Art, opened in the Cryptovoxels metaverse in 2020.
Women-led NFT projects have also expanded into the physical art world, bridging the gap between gallery spaces and the metaverse. In the summer of 2021, as NFTs continued their rise into the mainstream, the Every Woman Biennial, an event devoted to uplifting women and non-binary artists, teamed up with Superchief Gallery NFT to give hundreds of artists a platform and point of entry into the crypto art universe. 23 digital canvases displayed the artworks as part of the show in New York. Women from 26 countries participated, many of them new to the space. Superchief helped make the process accessible.
Another community offering support for women and non-binary people interested in the world of crypto is BFF, hosted by 50-plus leaders across design, tech, business, and more. BFF notes that 81% of cryptocurrency buyers identify as male, and they exist to change that. Their goal: teach community members how to navigate NFTs, DAOs, and the blockchain.
DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, have also emerged with the aim of promoting equality in the NFT space. RiseDAO, for example, was created to help women from developing economies navigate and flourish as we enter the Web3 era. In addition to providing grants to women artists, the organization also teaches programming skills so that more women can enter the coding field.
Individual artists have also helped support each other as they navigate the ins and outs of the decentralized web. In February, the photographer Brittany Pierre spoke with the Chicago Tribune about championing Black artists and communities of color; she’s helped dozens of female-identifying artists enter the space in hopes of correcting some of the existing inequity. Pierre has actively supported the community by onboarding women artists, inviting them to join the invite-only platform Foundation, and even helping to cover gas fees.
One aspect that makes NFTs so appealing to artists and collectors of all genders is the sense of community and collaboration that comes with being part of a larger whole. And we’ve seen artists use this idea to build more inclusive and diverse spaces. The Women Rise collection by the renowned artist and activist Maliha Abidi, which includes 10,000 randomly generated and unique art pieces, is one project of note, with a strong community backing on Discord and Twitter.
If we turn our attention back to World of Women, the collection created by Yam Karkai, you’ll find an active community at its heart as well. Through that community, WoW has helped to onboard more artists and creators. 15% of primary sales go to the WoW Fund for Cryptoart, which invests in NFT artists. In recent months, they’ve acquired work by prominent photographers in the space, including Cath Simard and Isaac “Drift” Wright.
Finally, we’ve seen NFT projects foster long-term change by supporting organizations working on behalf of gender equality worldwide. As we mentioned in our previous article on NFTs for social change, World of Women donates 7.5% of all primary sales to causes important to them.
Maliha Abidi’s Women Rise has the goal of creating the first school in the metaverse for children without access to education, many of whom are girls. They’ve also donated to the Malala Fund, an organization working on behalf of women and girls’ education. Earlier this year, another project, Get Loud for Girls, brought together 31 artists for a limited 1/1 charity collection in support of She’s the First, an organization combating gender inequality through education.
There are a few ways to support equality in the NFT space. The first is doing your research, learning about women and non-binary artists in the community, and investing in their work. As an artist, you can promote and champion work by those you admire. If you’re already in the space, reach out to other artists to help with the onboarding process.
“Anyone can do their part by adopting an inclusive mindset,” the 500px team tells us. “Normalize the language and promote accessibility. Do the work and see what projects, initiatives, and artists are out there that you can support. Use hashtags like #womeninnfts to discover new work, or spend time uplifting artists on important days, such as International Women’s Day, and year-round.”
Together, women and non-binary voices in the NFT space are creating real change, signaling the possibility for a more equitable art world on Web3. Perhaps it’s worth noting that before Woman #5672 was sold, Yam Karkai invited members of the community to vote on which one would go to Christie’s. It was a group decision, made by the collective. As of this writing, the entire World of Women collection is valued at a quarter of a billion dollars.
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