The Metaverse moves fast these days. In the span of a week, we’ve seen a significant run on the works of OG crypto artists as collectors vie to pick up pieces with historical value. While XCopy has seen some of the most dramatic movement, capped by a $1.7M sale for “Death Dip” that set a new SuperRare record, many of the artists included in our list of ten crypto art OGs to know have also seen their price floors rise.
While that first list was a solid start, we’re well aware that there are many more early adopters who deserve recognition. We’ve returned with a second installment this week and will continue showcasing the architects of this space in future editions. If you’re new to NFTs, please learn more about the ten trailblazers below who helped pave the way long before the SNL skits.
Josie Bellini is a renowned crypto artist who entered the space in 2017 and broke through with her viral works “Genesis” and “Filter.” The latter features the iconic Bitcoin-branded gas mask that has become synonymous with her brand and an AR integration that helped cement her legacy in the crypto community. As a staunch believer in Bitcoin and the promise of decentralization, Bellini embraces the term “Bitcoin artist” and champions the game-changing cryptocurrency in many of her pieces. Between writing a regular newsletter, maintaining a community Discord and launching her new CyberBrokers project, she also finds time to host an illuminating interview series called “Behind the Art” on YouTube.
This Irish conceptual artist has been at the forefront of art’s intersection with blockchain technology for years. Abosch was experimenting in the space as early as 2013, when he compiled 500 paired Bitcoin keys in a book that he declared a "bank." In 2018, he notably tokenized himself via 10 million ERC-20 tokens for his “IAMACOIN” project, sold his “Forever Rose” crypto artwork for $1 million to a group of 10 collectors, and teamed up with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei on “PRICELESS” — a project where one of two ERC-20 tokens was distributed one quintillionth at a time. For more information on Kevin Abosch, check out this New York Times profile.
Long before Ethereum became ground zero for the current NFT craze, Joe Looney was helping lead a 2016 crypto art revolution on the Bitcoin blockchain. As the founder of Rare Pepe Wallet and co-founder of Rare Pepe Foundation, he developed the first on-chain art exchange that helped Counterparty Protocol’s Rare Pepes trading card series scale into a full-blown crypto cultural phenomenon. In January 2018, Looney presided over the Rare Art Labs Digital Art Festival where a rare “Homer Pepe” card sold for $38,500 in a live auction. (It recently resold for more than $320,000). Artist Matt Kane called it “the most important NFT in art history” as its sale “influenced so many of the original crypto artists to believe we could put our art to work building both a market and belief around this new technology."
Olive Allen brought her art to the blockchain in 2018 and hasn’t looked back. Constantly evolving her approach and style, the New York-based artist began her career as a traditional painter but now uses digital brushes and an iPad canvas to create her distinctively sardonic output. In series like “The Sheeplezzz,” she lampoons elements of internet culture like Clubhouse and Trash Art with tongue-in-cheek flair. A firm believer that artists have a responsibility to comment on current affairs, Allen has become a key voice in the space by never shying away from sharing her opinion.
John Orion Young (AKA JOY) has been a colorful fixture in the Metaverse since 2018 and a consistent advocate for VR/AR technology on the blockchain. Favoring cartoonish renders and eye-popping primary colors (with an unabashed soft spot for yellow), Young has established a compelling visual style while building a literal world around his own imagination. From his JoyWorld VR wonderland to JoyToy series, it’s clear Young is already living in 3021 and remains light years ahead of the curve.
Based in Kiev, Ukraine, Yura Miron is a visual artist whose vibrant work draws on influences ranging from psychedelic trips to lucid dreaming and meditation. Many of his signature early GIFs on SuperRare document his psychonaut adventures with hallucinogenics like Aleph and Allylescaline. After Miron received a coveted co-sign from X-Copy last week, collectors scrambled to snatch up his available 1/1 pieces and significantly raised his market floor. The OG duo then decided to reward 29 collectors on KnownOrigin with surprise editions of a 2012 collaboration titled “Effect” before auctioning off the final remaining edition on the platform.
Coin Artist (born Marguerite deCourcelle) is a prolific jack-of-all-trades who has been very active at the intersection of crypto and gaming for years. The artist first rose to prominence for her renowned crypto puzzle paintings “Dark Wallet Puzzle” (2014) and “TORCHED H34R7S” (2015), the latter of which contained 5 Bitcoins and took three years to solve. In addition to inventing the crypto puzzle genre, she regularly livestreams conversations with creatives on the cutting edge of NFT gaming and launched $COIN as a collaborative governance token project last September.
A self-described Bitcoin activist who has dedicated his career to evangelizing the cryptocurrency, cryptograffiti know how to make a lasting impression. While he was a key contributor to early NFT projects like Curio Cards, the San Francisco artist is perhaps best known for his iconic “United Nodes of Bitcoin” (2015) work and a prolific catalogue of Bitcoin art. He recently made headlines by placing 12 “BTC vs. The Fed” billboards in each of the Federal Reserve branch cities to raise awareness in low income neighborhoods, as well as drop clues to a 0.21 BTC cryptographic puzzle prize. With a number of interesting projects planned, cryptograffiti is one to keep an eye on.
Artonymous Artifakt is a highly-respected crypto artist who helped lead the early charge on SuperRare back in 2018. While there’s unsurprisingly not much in the way of biographical details for the anonymous artist, his work speaks for itself. Combining AI and surrealist elements with a proclivity for skeletal imagery, his recognizable pieces have been collected by plenty of fellow OGs like Coldie and Criptocromo.
Hailing from Paris, Pascal “PBOY” Boyart began his forays into crypto art in 2017 through a series of popular street art murals incorporating Bitcoin QR codes. The French artist received more than 1.21 BTC in two years from donations sourced solely from his frescoes. He officially transitioned into NFTs in 2019 by tokenizing the first-ever street art mural “Daddy, what is money?” and views the medium as a “very satisfying” means of immortalizing ephemeral works that can be subject to censorship. Boyart remains beloved within the Bitcoin community and recently sold his “Dollars Assange” piece for 1 BTC on Scarce.City, an NFT auction platform based on Bitcoin’s Lightning Network. In true cypherpunk fashion, 30% of proceeds went to support Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s legal appeal.