The NFT space is full of pioneers who led the way with creative, innovative art work and community support. Although some of these OGs have sadly passed on, the immutable nature of the blockchain means that their work will last forever.
Alotta Money (real name Phillipe) was more than an artist: he was a pioneer in the space whose passing sparked an outpouring of grief. His work was immediately recognisable for its attention to detail, surrealist landscapes and otherworldly settings, enlarging the scope of what digital art could achieve. It also bridged the divide between the digital and physical worlds and was frequently exhibited in art galleries. Pretty much everything he ever worked on is now highly sought by collectors and sells for thousands of dollars. His influence across the community is beyond monetary value, though. Alotta Money was known for supporting new artists, was a fantastic wit and generally a huge presence. His loss was devastating. Many changed their pfps to unique Alotta Money avatars in tribute.
Iconic fashion designer and visual artist Virgil Abloh was only just starting his cryptoart journey when he died. His list of achievements is long; he was artistic director at Luis Vuitton, founded his own fashion house and even worked with Kayne West. His first foray into the NFT space was a limited edition skate deck collaboration with famous skater Stevie Williams. Any death is a tragedy, but Abloh’s feels like an even bigger loss because he was working on so many future projects. Not only did Abloh have more NFT drops lined up but he was also planning a DAO and special social token. Tweets from a close friend reveal that he was preparing to launch an NFT museum that would have displayed all of Abloh’s upcoming NFTs alongside the work of community artists, all funded by a native token. Although his legacy will survive, we’ll sadly never know how those projects would have taken shape.
Garcia was a guitarist in Grateful Dead, themselves groundbreaking. Having studied visual arts in San Francisco he was keenly interested in digital art and worked with the medium for most of his life. Just before his death, technology (in the form of NFTs) began to catch up. Garcia’s final drawings were found in a folder marked “Last 48 hours” and put up for sale by his family. The drawings are surrealistic in tone and make use of vivid colours and expressive line work. They were sold on YellowHeart (a marketplace usually reserved for gig tickets) and proceeds were donated to the Wilderness Fund. This is another digital artist who would have achieved so much more in the NFT space had their life not been cut short.
MF Doom was an influential rapper and record producer famed for his elaborate and impressive stage masks. Towards the end of his life he began to experiment with digital art. Doom created a series of visually stunning, signed AR masks to be minted as NFTs. The masks were sold on Illust Space, which meant that viewers could try them on and wear them in augmented reality. Given Doom’s fame and influence (not to mention the artistic panache of the masks) the auction was a roaring success, with the NFTs selling for as much as 450 ETH. Tragically, Doom died the day after the auction concluded, otherwise who knows what other AR creations he might have unleashed.
How can Hokusai be a cryptoartist when computers - least of all the internet - hadn’t even been invented when he first picked up a brush? Famed Japanese master Hokusai predates the first NFT by 256 years, but the British Museum nonetheless saw fit to digitise and mint his work for collection. So-called “common pieces” (with 1000 editions available) started at an affordable $400 but ultra-rare 1/1s opened at $4000. Predictably, Hokusai’s famous ‘The Great Wave of Kanagawa’ topped the catalogue as a high demand 1/1. This sparks an intriguing debate about how NFTs can be used in conjunction with classic art and long deceased creators. As technology advances and the Metaverse is built, there will be a pressing need to migrate classic pieces into digital museums/galleries. Collections will also need to migrate and have some kind of placeholder within Web3.