In 2021, we witnessed a new creator economy born on the blockchain. Throughout the year, artists have risen to NFT superstardom, billion-dollar brands have been forged in the span of a few months and NFTs have changed lives time and time again. Yet, the most inspiring aspect of the NFT space is the fact that artists of all creeds and mediums have found community, support, and financial security by embracing this technology.
In keeping with our mission to empower creators, we’re excited to introduce Next Up — our new franchise dedicated to showcasing rising artists. In our inaugural edition, we curated a list of 22 ascendant talents who are poised to make major waves in 2022. Every month going forward, we’ll also be curating a more intimate Next Up selection to provide a regular platform to up-and-comers across the space.
Without further ado, nft now’s 22 Next Up ones to watch in 2022.
Alpha Centauri Kid
After receiving a coveted XCOPY co-sign, Alpha Centauri Kid captivated the NFT space in October with his record-setting genesis auction on SuperRare for “ctrl + alt + generate.” The piece sold to 6529 for 165.29 ETH ($606,568) following a pitched bidding war involving leading collectors like Cozomo de’ Medici and Starry Night Capital. ACK recently made his major auction house debut in the nft now x Christie’s x OpenSea auction with a standout piece called “girl with balloon” that shockingly transformed into “pepe with balloon” upon its sale in Banksyesque fashion. – Matt Medved
Andrea Oshea is a 3D animator and prominent Black crypto artist based in Atlanta, Ga. He’s worked with Snapchat, Adult Swim, Vogue, Netflix, and more, and has described his art as being “inspired by aesthetic beauty, luxury, storytelling, the future and the feeling of limitless moments.”
Oshea has released numerous influential pieces throughout 2021, including a tribute to Chadwick Boseman titled A Young Boy’s Dream. To close out the year, his piece Ego Death was sold as part of Christie’s first-ever on-chain auction, presented as part of nft now x Christie’s “The Gateway”. – Langston Thomas
Black Dave is a visual artist, producer, and recording artist based out of Charleston, S.C. Dave is a prolific creative working on multiple projects across various mediums all at once, citing anime, rap, hardcore rock and streetwear as his biggest creative influences. He’s continued to churn out a wide variety of both music and NFT releases throughout the year, establishing himself as one of the most prominent Black voices in the NFT space. – LT
Landscape photography NFTs have enjoyed a renaissance over the past year, empowering a new class of intrepid explorers like Cath Simard. The Sony Alpha ambassador rose to prominence in the space following the 100 ETH ($303,481) sale of her viral #FreeHawaiiPhoto to notable collector GMoney, which became the world’s first image to have its rights released following purchase. Cath is also deep in the NFT space, and when she’s not spelunking through frozen caves and capturing aurora borealis, she can often be found advocating for her favorite project – the cult classic CryptoDickbutts. – MM
Compusophy is an anonymous artist that melds tech and visual art. Having burst onto the scene towards the beginning of 2021, he first started gaining a following through minimalistic, geometric pieces that many felt were an homage to blue-chip artist Pak.
After an abrupt disappearance in April that shocked many in his collector community, the enigmatic creator returned to the NFT space and hit the ground running with numerous giveaways, Twitter analytics events, and auctions. Having garnered support from numerous prominent crypto artists, it seems likely Compu will continue to outdo himself in 2022. – LT
Diana Sinclair is a 17-year-old critically acclaimed visual artist, activist, and curator. In Nov 2020, she was selected as a 2021 YoungArts National Finalist in Photography and has since easily become a staple of the NFT space.
Primarily focusing on art that explores identity, self-exploration, and social justice, Sinclair had already built up a robust network of support within the NFT space before making history via their work on OneOf’s Whitney Houston auction. The landmark $999,999 sale not only helped illustrate how NFTs can help bring iconic artists into a new era of music culture, but also elevated Sinclair’s status as an ascendant star. – LT
Isaac Wright, better known by his moniker Drift, is a photographer who went viral over the past year after being arrested at gunpoint for climbing a skyscraper in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally a hobbyist urban explorer, Wright gained notoriety via his pictures atop buildings, bridges and other high-elevation places usually unreachable by a lone human.
While Wright’s Where My Vans Go photo series has become a highly coveted collection in the NFT space, his art has continued to earn him prosecution for trespassing. Yet, as a judge ruled in favor of treatment and no jail time, settling the six felony charges against him, the NFT space as a whole seems to be expecting more groundbreaking photography from him in 2022. – LT
One of the most notable artists to come out of the hicetnunc ecosystem on the Tezos blockchain, Fiedler pairs throwback GIF art with neon colors that memorably contrast with his work’s sci-fi/horror subject matter. The Brazilian artist has become instantly recognizable and now counts luminaries like XCOPY among his collectors. He’s also got a penchant for philanthropy, recently releasing an edition of 100 to help feed needy families in Curitiba. – MM
Gossamer Rozen (aka Grelysian) is a non-binary, transgender, Filipino/African American artist who has continued to push the boundaries of both their physical and digital art in 2021. While Rozen has worked on a wide array of solo and collaborative NFT endeavors (including the popular Woodies project) throughout the year, they continue to focus on expressing intimacy and self-actualization through tattooing, woodcarving, textile art, soft sculpture, digital media and more. – LT
Gremplin is a visual artist who started his deep dive into NFTs in January of 2021. After slowly releasing wide variety of pieces and projects, the anonymous artist developed his own signature style through trial and error, gaining popularity in the NFT space.
After being involved with numerous projects throughout the year — including the successful Nouns NFT project — the enigmatic creator came out with the now massively popular CrypToadz collection. While Gremplin has only just begun to truly define his own artistic identity in the NFT space, with the seemingly full support of the NFT community at his disposal, exciting new endeavors from the independent creative seem inevitable in 2022. – LT
A first-generation Ethiopian/Eritrean-American artist and musician whose work focuses on the Black consciousness, Heno channeled his toxic experiences with law enforcement into a fourteen-track album titled “I’m Tired Of Being Hypersurveilled” with an ongoing 20 ETH crowdfund. In October, he performed at the opening of Umba Daima’s Crossroads Exhibition NFT gallery in Atlanta and has been a vocal advocate for Black creatives in the space. – MM
Jake Osmun, better known in the NFT space as JAKE, is a music photographer turned crypto artist who has seen continuous success in 2021. Having started out the year with little experience in NFTs, he began his deep dive into the space after winning Punk #5514 from Punk4156 via a Twitter contest. Although he was grinding for a good few months to establish a solid foothold in the space, his multimedia pieces have continued to earn him accolades from top-tier artists and collectors. – LT
NFTs are poised to disrupt the film industry, particularly in helping independent filmmakers crowdfund projects and independently monetize intellectual property. Acclaimed photographer Julie Pacino is a living case study for this new model. She recently released her “Keepers of the Inn” project to finance her forthcoming feature film, I Live Here Now, which is based on her cinematic genesis NFT photography collection by the same name. – MM
Klara Vollstaedt is a transgender artist from Canada whose work analyzes the divide between the digital and the real world, as well as the personas and relationships that exist within it. She started out the year with a barrage of impressive 1/1 3D pieces before pivoting to conceive her adorable PFP project KBOTs. With a successful avatar series under her belt, Vollstaedt will continue to develop in all creative endeavors in 2022. – LT
Music video NFTs are poised to have a moment and no one is doing them better than Latashá. The Brooklyn-born singer and rapper recently set a new music NFT record on Zora with her stunning video for “GOGO WYNE,” which sold for 13.4207 ETH ($50,398). In between divining fortunes and dancing in dazzling outfits, Latashá somehow also finds time to run community programming for Zora and help onboard and educate newcomers to the NFT space. – MM
Connor Campbell, better known by his moniker LEViT∆TE, is an audiovisual artist based out of California. Recently, he joined a collaborative effort to mint and auction Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht’s genesis NFT.
Although Campbell began minting and selling his own NFTs in July of 2020, he has continued to work behind the scenes on visuals for numerous big-name music and NFT projects. Considering Ulbricht’s genesis NFT — which was unveiled at nft now x Christie’s “The Gateway” — sold for $6.27 million, LEViT∆TE enters 2022 as an integral part of the NFT ecosystem. – LT
A 3D artist and music producer who has worked with some of the top artists and brands in the world, including Kanye West’s “Donda” show and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade NFT drop, REO is now coming into his own as an artist. In November, his “emersion” genesis piece on SuperRare sold to Mondoir for 12 ETH ($51,403) in an auction that featured bids from the likes of FVCKRENDER, BT, ThankYouX, and more. – MM
Self-described as the “first and only drag artist on SuperRare,” Sam J unapologetically explores their queer identity in colorful animated pieces that count tastemaking artists like Fewocious, Claire Silver, Erin Beesley among their collectors. Based in Amsterdam, Sam J has displayed works at RAREWORLD: SuperRare x SuperWorld Miami and Amsterdam Fashion Week. – MM
A prolific generative artist who wears many hats and monikers, sgt_slaughtermelon first caught our attention with his whimsical modernist project Lazlo Lissitsky before rising to prominence with his Art Blocks Factory autoRAD drop in collaboration with Tartaria Archivist. He recently announced a Tezos collection called “The Lost Works of Sargei Slaughtermelovich,” proving that his algorithmic inspiration still cannot be confined to one name or blockchain. – MM
Shay the Surrealist
Shaylin Wallace certainly lives up to her name, attracting attention across the NFT space over the past year with her stunning surrealist works on platforms like Foundation, Makersplace, Async Art and KnownOrigin. The 22-year-old artist recently showcased at the nft now x Christie’s “The Gateway” gallery during Art Basel Miami and is clearly positioned to build upon her current momentum in the year to come. – MM
SHL0MS is an anonymous artist who aims to push boundaries and challenge perceptions of what constitutes art. As a prominent member of the non-fungible community, SHL0MS has not only greatly contributed to NFT meme culture, but continues to turn heads with unique, complex drops akin to digital performance art. With a presence that lies somewhere between shitposter extraordinaire and NFT social commentator, SHL0MS is only getting started. – LT
NFTs are changing the game for independent musicians. Brooklyn singer/songwriter VÉRITÉ was an early mover in the space, selling 2.3% of her “By Now” master recording in perpetuity for 11 ETH on Zora in April. In addition to inspiring other indie artists and making our list of the top music NFT moments of 2021, VÉRITÉ has been actively releasing music NFTs on medium-native platforms like Catalog and Sound.xyz. – MM