Premium 1/1 photography market is the strongest it’s ever been. During July – September 2022, photography sales on SuperRare exceeded 2,300 ETH, or 44% of total volume on the platform since Till Janz minted and sold thefirst photographin February 2021.
What’s driving such strong results in the midst of the bear market?
Who are the artists propelling the space forward?
With my analysis, I’ll take a crack at answering these questions.
Trailing 3-month sales for the top-50 independent photographers (excluding Fellowship Studio; more on this down below) exceeded 800 ETH as of the end of September.
Of the top-50 artists, 32 had at least one sale on SuperRare in the last 3 months, and 21 set their new all-time highs.
On average, the most recent all-time highs are 4X higher than these artists’ first sales.
GuidoandBen Zankhave seen prices for their work rise ~20X in less than a year.MonarisandJM Millerare having the strongest momentum having seen the prices for their work increase by 5 ETH in the last 6 months. Ben Zank’s rise to stardom has been unprecedented – from 1 ETH sale in May to the all-time high of 17.259E in September.
Since February 2021, photographers on SuperRare grossed over $15 million. This is a remarkable result for the industry, but there are still fewer than 100 photographers on the platform.
We have a long way to go to empower thousands of photographers to make a living in the crypto space. Although the last 3 months have been strong for the photography category, such life-changing earnings aren’t available to the majority of artists. Ten of the top-50 photographers accounted for 72% of total volumes. While the top-10 photographers grossed, on average, 53 ETH over the last 3 months, others earned less than 7 ETH.
This is an important reminder that we have a long way to go to fulfill the original vision – empower as many artists as possible to earn a living by doing what they love doing the most, i.e. making great art.
Just as photography sales are concentrated among the small number of artists, collecting too is largely driven by the few people.AlphaTrilogy,Studio137, andGuyNorcalhave collected over 150 photographs on SuperRare.Jean-Michel Pailhon,batsoupyum, andMatthave spent over $1 million collecting from over 20 photographers on SuperRare.
In the last 3 months, OG collectors likeAnonymouxhave been getting into photography, collecting largely from the most established artists likeBilly DinhandMonaris, slowly expanding their galleries, and gradually warming up to artists that are earlier in their web3 journey.
There are several well-known collectors who collected from one photographer.Pranksy(collected 7Rizacan Kumas’ works),Cozomo de’ Medici(4Michael Sidofsky),fastackl(2Caitlin Cronenberg),Bharat Krymo(1Ryan Koopmans),Vince(1Jacob Riglin),Vincent Van Dough(1Guido), and a few others have made their first purchases, but again gravitating mostly toward the top-20 photographers.
SuperRare had long been associated with highly curated premium artwork that was largely affordable to the top-5% of collectors. While such tight-knit approach was important in the early years to build reputation and earn trust, it had to evolve to fulfill the original vision of a truly global digital art market open to everyone.
One such evolution was the launch ofseries custom contractslast year. The inaugural Lux Noctis Series was launched in November 2021 by one of the greatest photographers of our generationReuben Wu.
Since then, dozens of artists launched series on SuperRare, making their premium work more available and, oftentimes, more affordable, and expanding their families of collectors.
Kristopher Shinnis a great example of someone who capitalized on this opportunity. His 16-piece series “Come Together” released in September grossed 21 ETH in less than one month compared to the eight 1/1 pieces that had taken him over 6 months to sell, but which had earned half as much. With the starting price of 1 ETH, some pieces from the “Come Together” series fetched as much as 3 ETH, setting new records for Kristopher and onboarded 15 new collectors into his family.
When SuperRare launched in 2018, digital art sales were less than $1 million. The team took a thoughtful, measured approach to growth and gradually built a reputation for quality curation and authenticity.
As SuperRare grew into the premier NFT art platform, it became clear that growing and thriving at web scale and fulfilling the vision of a truly global multi-billion dollar decentralized art market required a different approach.
In August 2021, SuperRare took the first step toward fulfilling the vision of a global decentralized art market. The launch of RARE curation token and SuperRare DAO kickstarted the shift of ownership, curation, value capture, and governance over the SuperRare network to the community.
One of the most impactful outcomes of this strategic shift was the launch of SuperRare Spaces – independently run galleries that curate, promote and sell artwork.
A year later, there are 20 Spaces on SuperRare which together have grossed over 2,200 ETH. The result is even more impressive when you learn that one such Space accounted for two thirds of this volume.
Fellowship Studiogrossed 1,500 ETH in July – September. This is equivalent to 65% of total photography sales on SuperRare during those three months.
Started by the artistsAlejandro Cartagena,Chadwick Tyler, andFernando Gallegos, as well as the collectorStudio137, Fellowship Studio went after the most iconic photographers in history. Gregory Crewdson. Joel Meyerowitz. Joel Sternfeld. Since July, Fellowship onboarded into crypto ten legendary artists who are some of the most significant photographers in the medium’s history. Releasing their work as NFTs marked the beginning of a new age for collectors seeking truly rare grails.
Three images from the archive of fashion photographer Guy Bourdin set new records fetching 25-50 ETH a piece. (This was still a bargain compared to the six digits that Bourdin’s work tend to sell for at auctions.) Ninety nine pieces that were released grossed over 620 ETH – the most of any photography collections ever released on the blockchain.
Onboarding such legendary artists is a huge win for the web3 space. These photographers have long waiting lists for their work and almost never associate with emerging brands like Fellowship. However, the team’s experience and thoughtful, measured, and highly strategic approach are clearly resonating with them.
For photography to grow 100X, empowering thousands of photographers to earn a living, there needs to be a more effective way to not only onboard more artists, but also discover their work, highlight and promote it.
Launching SuperRare Spaces was an important first step toward decentralizing curation. Reassured by the success of Spaces, the team spearheaded the next evolution of the platform.
In August 2022, SuperRare proposedcurator lists, with the idea to allow anyone – collector or not – to identify and foster strong artistic talent and shape the future of digital art.
This is a grand idea that has the potential to create a truly global and connected multi-billion dollar digital art market. The rise of open curator platforms like Deca and JPG, with thousands of people creating galleries, curating exhibits, and sharing about the art they love, is encouraging. With the right incentives and rewards system, with the DAO established, and with the RARE token in circulation, SuperRare seems to be well-positioned to lead the digital art revolution.
A rising tide lifts all boats. As the digital art market expands, photography will expand with it. Still less than 5% of all sales on SuperRare, photography has a strong potential to become a significantly bigger category. My hope is that we use the strong foundation we have built in the last 2 years to create a market that is not only bigger, but also more fair and equitable.