Like it or not, understand it or not, the NFT-backed world of crypto art and visual culture on the blockchain has been a breakout story of Covid-era society; and there’s a lot of upside for artists, like enshrined authorship, economic stewardship, global audience reach. But as many who have attempted to dive into the roiling seas of this strange new world have realized—whether as investors, artists, curators, institutions, and, increasingly, physical galleries—the cryptoverse is plagued by the same issues of representation as the rest of culture. A lack of women and non-binary and non-white voices makes any sector of society fall flat—be that art, music, TV/film, science, tech, fashion, food, politics, architecture or, indeed, the entire internet.
From the beginning of this phenomenon, insightful, dedicated independent artists and curators have taken preemptive steps to prevent the dreaded tech-bro patriarchy represented by Beeple and Bored Apes from taking hold in Web3—working instead to ensure that the cryptoverse future is female. Among this wave, there has also been an uptick in women-helmed NFT communities that also use the generative/derivative format of the Bored Apes and deploy it for their own purposes in both art-making and community-building. In this structure, artists create a sort of database of “traits” like background colors and patterns, animals, career or profession props, skin tones, lips, hair, eyes, badges, clothing and accessories, trees and flowers, and all kinds of stuff. They set up hundreds or even thousands of these elements, and when the buyer mints themselves a work from the series, the combinations are randomly generated into a unique (or at least rare) variation, which is then their own NFT.
Though by no means a comprehensive list, here are 10 women-helmed NFT communities that are a great place to start if you’re interested in more gender balance in your timeline, collection and consciousness—or simply experiencing some energized, eccentric, optimistic works of art that honor the kaleidoscopic diversity and power of women from around the world. All of these series are intentional about community-building activism, too, with many offering onboarding training, collecting funds, amplification support, and storytelling platforms for the women involved—both creators and investors. It’s beautiful to behold.
A collection of 10,000 randomly generated and unique NFT art pieces algorithmically assembled from about 450 hand-drawn traits by artist Maliha Abidi, the Women Rise collection represents global women with diversity that goes way beyond skin color. Celebrating the activists, artists, scientists, coders, and many others working to make the world a better place has always been central to Abidi’s art and activism, and to that end, the project earmarked 7.5% of the proceeds to international organizations that fight for women’s rights, gender equity, and girls’ education, and collectors can join live and virtual “clubs” that focus on science, activism, and sustainability. womenrise.art; @womenrisenft.
BFF was created by Brit Morin and Jaime Schmidt, two self-described “serial entrepreneurs” who embrace a mission to help women reach their full potential. Over 100 female and non-binary figures from the worlds of crypto, tech, design, and business supported the project’s launch, intrigued by creating a broad-based community of tech-heads and neophytes alone that not only generates celebrity-coveted NFT avatars, but pursues a broader vision to build art, business and advocacy collaborations across the new Web3 universe. Their open-access community helps women and non-binary people get educated, connected, onboarded, and empowered within their decentralized but tight-knit community. mybff.com; @mybff.
This generative art collection features women of diverse backgrounds with a focus on quirky, funny, and even subversive personalities while at the same time remaining urgently aware of the need to elevate more women to leadership in Web3, and from there across all the world’s industries. Focused on building sustainable, scalable programs in digital art, design, and beauty, Crypto Chicks is devoted to elevating stories and teaching newly necessary skills. A unique core component of their model is the Women Artist Fund—a platform that supports emerging women-identifying artists with both exposure and actual money (well, Ethereum) by dedicating a large quarterly fund to buy unique pieces that are then showcased and distributed across the community. cryptochicks.app; @cryptochicksnft.
World of Women features 10,000 unique and diverse female avatars, conceived by artist Yam Karkai to bring change to the wider NFT community. WoW’s vision is to build an inclusive Web3 through its collection, responding to the oft-cited and very damning statistic that shows how as recently as November 2021, female artists accounted for just 5% of all NFT art sales in the previous two years. “Together, we can create opportunities for anyone around the world to be owners, creators, and contributors in this new era of the web,” Karkai writes. “We believe in giving back.” WoW also maintains a thoughtful presence in the educating of the non-NFT and even non-art world, seeking to recruit more natural allies from across the world and its many cultures and economies. worldofwomen.art; @worldofwomen.nft.
With the rousing but dead simple motto that “A woman can be everything she wants,” Boss Beauties offers a collection of 10,000 diverse female avatars depicted in different, empowering roles—doctors, astronauts, presidents, mothers, soldiers, artists, executives, athletes, and more. For 10 years, the Boss Beauties branding and marketing company’s mission has been to educate and empower the new generations of women and girls; they see their NFT collection as an exciting extension of the same passion and goals—made all the more exciting for the medium’s potential to capture the voices and dreams of literally thousands of independent women. Boss Beauties holders receive utilities such as tickets to exclusive music events, early access to new NFT drops, and access to the company’s most intriguing partner collaborations. bossbeauties.com; @bossbeautiesnft.
Even within the lack of representation for female figures in the NFT space, Asian representation more specifically also is extremely absent—which is exactly what the 8Sian NFT collection is trying to address. The project’s 8,888 Asian women NFTs showcase the plurality and majestic diversity of global Asian cultural heritages, in highly-detailed, thoughtfully adorned avatars depicting a litany of ethnic traits along with traditional and modern costumes and fashion, jewelry, accessories, and personalities, as well as rich symbolism, historical and aspirational values in a lavish but elegant palette that makes the series theatrical, celebratory, fascinating, educational, and absolutely necessary. 8siannft.com; 8siannft.
Pussy Riot’s activist platform, Unicorn DAO, is a feminist movement aiming to tackle patriarchy in Web3, in the form of an investment fund that highlights and collects NFT projects from women-identifying and LGBTQ+ artists with the same fearless zeal you’d expect from the incendiary performance art group. Standing for “gender fluidity, inclusivity, matriarchy, love, laughter, decentralization, anarchy, and anti-authoritarianism to build the infrastructure for a feminist and queer revolution on the blockchain,” the DAO is not a single project but rather a platform and a fund, collecting and showcasing art created by a global community led by women, non-binary and LGBTQ+ people. Viscerally cognizant of the need to provide historically underrepresented groups tools to empower themselves and “subvert crypto bro culture,” they also seek out and mentor new talent in the name of a queer mutual-support utopia in the Metaverse. The result is a dynamic, eclectic, unpredictable array of enlightened post-gender visions that approaches the NFT situation as a true revolution—and they should know. unicorndao.com; unicorn.dao.
This collection of 10,000 unique NFTs features 15 of artist Ilse Valfré’s signature character typologies, variable with over 500 hand-drawn traits including saturated colors, facial and animal features (especially cats), and bubble-gum dreams in thousands of instances of ferocity and extreme cuteness. Valfré’s background in character design and fantasy world-building has always been community-focused, based on and inspired by herself and the amazing women in her life; some fans identify so strongly with her vision that they’ve had their generative avatars transformed into tattoos! The recent explosion in technology inspired Valfré with its perfect marriage of complexity, expansion, and playtime. valfrelandia.com; @valfrelandia.
Graphic designer and illustrator Varvara Alay’s wildly popular Flower Girls NFT collection includes 10,000 unique NFTs generated from over 950 hand-drawn attributes (for you mathletes, that’s a yield of 492,778 ways to generate just a face; there are over six sextillion possible combinations across the collection). In the series, Alay’s surrealistic sensibility and deep art-historical inflections center around the themes of natural beauty, purity and diversity. Alay’s new collection Birds of Sōlis—a collaborative project inspired by Audubon’s Birds of America—is just about to drop, in a suite of similarly structured gorgeous and romantic interpretations focusing on 20 bird species, producing a generative series of 2022 total pieces. flowergirlsnft.com; @flowergirlsnft.
The Medusa Collection is a set of 2,500 randomly generated unique NFTs by artist Mieke Marple in a large-scale artwork and restorative history fundraiser that dedicates 25% of all sales to Steven Van Zandt’s national education nonprofit TeachRock.org. The collection is made using a salient hybrid of analog and digital techniques, based on Marple’s original, heartfelt paintings of canonical 16th-19th century Italian sculptures of Medusa and her enduring but fatefully misunderstood myth. Marple described embarking on the painting series in 2019, when she read an 8 AD account by the Ovid that related how Medusa had been raped by the god Poseidon and then turned into a monster by Poseidon’s wife, Athena. Horrified that Medusa was punished for being a rape survivor, but even more so that this was erased from her story and her status as an evil Gorgon was amplified by society, poets, artists and historians. To Marple, this felt uncomfortably similar to the dynamics of today’s misogynist transgressions in everything from popular culture to politics and horrifyingly, public policy. The Medusa Collection fights back against the oldest and newest violence in this historically restorative and futuristically utopian vision. medusacollection.io; @miekemarple.