Well, 2023 is finally upon us. Over the next year, members of the NFT space will be looking forward to a vast assortment of new art from some of Web3’s most influential creators. From established artists to the up-and-comers featured in nft now’s Next Up charts, the vast array of NFT smiths on the blockchain has begun fueling their proverbial fires, set to make the next 360-something days count.
So to honor the artists that made a splash in 2022 and are poised to conquer the new year, we’ve hand-picked 10 artists, both big and small, that are well worth a follow in 2023.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list; you can revisit 2022’s nft 100 for that. Here, we selected creators from disparate sectors of the NFT market to help readers diversify their social feeds over the next year. The artists featured here were picked through qualitative metrics — each went beyond the simple act of selling art and had a palpable influence on the ecosystem (and sometimes outward to society itself) over the last year.
Presented in no specific order, these movers and shakers have sometimes flown under the radar, but each is a true creator of culture and deserves to be recognized.
Emonee LaRussa is an Emmy award-winning motion graphics artist who, throughout her career, has worked with artists including Kanye West, Lil Nas X, Dababy, John Legend, and many more. In the Spring of 2022, LaRussa was brought further into the public eye when she was chosen as one of three artists to create NFTs to celebrate the 64th Grammy Awards. Then, in the fall, she spearheaded a campaign for her non-profit JumpStart Designers and successfully raised $50,000 to provide computers & digital art programs to kids in underserved communities, closing out the year with a philanthropic bang.
Cath Simard is a wilderness photographer and digital artist who created the world’s first image to have its rights released after its 1/1 NFT sale on the blockchain: #freehawaiiphoto. As one of the top NFT artists in the world, Simard has continued to advocate for fair compensation and recognition for artists while also using her imaginative composite images to raise environmental awareness. Having been auctioned off by both Sotheby’s and Christie’s in 2022, she is surely poised to continue her admirable mission over the next year.
Over the past few years, Ed Balloon has solidified himself not only as a Web3 artist and musician but also as a community leader. In an ecosystem that is often overrun by PFP projects, his stunning pieces showcase his unique existence as one of the most prolific stop-motion NFT artists. In 2022, his Run Ed collection was presented as a one-of-a-kind generative sound and motion endeavor that blended stop-motion, 2D and 3D animation, and music. To help uplift other artists, 50 percent of the collection’s secondary sales continued to go toward The Ed Balloon Generational Wealth Fund, which collects work from Black and other under-represented artists in Web3.
LATASHÁ is an LA-based rapper who endorses and proliferates freedom in her music career through NFTs. In early 2021, she minted an NFT for her song “Ilikedat” on Zora and became one of the first artists to sell music videos as an NFT. From then on she has been almost single-handedly defining the music video NFT market. In addition to her personal artistic endeavors, she also acts as a steward of Web3 events as the head of community programming at Zora and the creator of Zoratopia — an educational platform where she organizes events and conversations to give artists, collectors, and curious bystanders better access to information regarding how the metaverse and NFTs can benefit them.
Daniel Isles (Dirty Robot)
Throughout the 2021 NFT boom, countless artists launched PFP projects to varying degrees of success. Some, like Clon (Cool Cats), Psych (Deadfellaz), and Burnt Toast (Doodles), achieved a significant degree of staying power during the generative avatar boom. Yet, in 2022, few could compete with the brainchild of independent illustrator and comic artist Daniel Isles. Better known as Dirty Robot, Isles and his Renga project came to dominate the PFP market last year, creating somewhat of a new archetype for what large-scale avatars can be. But even so, it hasn’t stopped Isles from continuing to achieve sizeable sales throughout the entire year with his own 1/1s, making him a definite one to follow in 2023.
In 2022, Grant Yun emerged as somewhat of a poster child for fine art NFTs. While he insists that his entrance into the NFT space was somewhat of a leap of faith, his Neo-Precisionist style continues to stand out in the now PFP-saturated NFT market. Through the high-profile sale of “Cow,” a conversation about the utility and value of fine art NFTs was kicked off. Some saw the piece as too simple to be worth 22 ETH (roughly $72,000 at the time), and others believed Yun’s creation could easily become one of the best use cases of CC0-licensed art in the NFT space. Although his praises have been sung many times in 2022, he has surely deserved the shine.
Iman Europe is an independent singer, songwriter, and lyricist who brings a fusion of hip-hop, soul, and R&B to the blockchain. In January 2022, Europe became Head of Artist Relations at Sound, a platform for Web3 music. With her on the team, the company prospered throughout the year, with the Sound marketplace’s secondary sales crossing the threshold of $5 million by year’s end. Aside from her work behind the scenes pushing the Web3 music space forward, Europe has minted hundreds of unique, forward-thinking music NFTs of her own, even contributing a song to an NFT mix released by Snoop Dogg.
In the same vein as Bad Robot, the 2022 PFP market would’ve been nothing without digital artist and animator Markus Magnusson. Known professionally as Motion Markus, his slick, clean animation style has garnered hundreds of thousands of fans across social media. Although his 1/1s consistently fetch a pretty penny, Magnusson is best known in the NFT space as the creator of the popular large-scale generative avatar collection Invisible Friends. With his new project Garbage Friends on the horizon, his sway within the PFP NFT market has only seemed to increase, prompting countless imitators to follow in his footsteps.
In under a year, Sasha Stiles quickly became one of the biggest advocates for literary NFTs and the growing AI NFT art movement. A first-generation Kalmyk-American poet, artist, and AI researcher, she creates art at the intersection of text and technology. A pioneer of generative literature, Stiles is the recipient of a Future Art Award and a nominee for the Forward Prize, Pushcart Prize, and Best of the Net. Having received numerous other accolades in the Web3 and NFT spheres, her work has been widely exhibited and auctioned, and provides possibly the most robust use case for prosperity at the intersection of literary NFTs and AI art.
Guido Di Salle
Guido Di Salle has become known as one of the most prolific (and at times infamous) artists in the NFT ecosystem. As a self-titled provocateur, Di Salle’s presence on social media feels at times to be a reflection of NFT culture itself. Since first becoming involved in the NFT space, Di Salle’s style has continued to evolve from surreal to candid, culminating perfectly in his open edition “Sicilian Kiss” which made a major splash in 2022, solidifying him near the top of the photography NFT charts. While his photos often feature high-contrast settings and fashionable women, his self-stated rule to make “iconic imagery of cool people, places, and things” makes him an undeniable one to follow in 2023.