When the digital illustrator Yam Karkai decided to delve into the world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), she quickly saw that, as a woman, she was under-represented in the field, whether as a maker, developer or collector.
She realised that — mirroring a historic pattern in the art market — only 16 per cent of NFT artists were women; and sales of their work accounted for just 5 per cent of the multi-billion-dollar industry’s turnover.
These statistics set Karkai on a path to creating World of Women, a diverse, empowering and highly collectable series of NFTs that puts females in the spotlight — supported by an online community of dedicated enthusiasts.
On 1 March, Christie’s is offering the World of Women NFT Woman #5672 in the 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale.
Woman #5672 is a portrait of a young woman with a black bob and gold earrings. She wears a black tuxedo, and her skin is a cool shade of night-sky purple.
Her features, however, aren’t random. They were assembled by an algorithm that pooled assets from a set of 200 designs that Karkai created by hand, including 27 different outfits, seven lip colours and 14 skin tones. The code minted a total of 10,000 unique World of Women NFT portraits.
By design, some features are scarcer than others. The skin colour of Woman #5672 is one of the least common, appearing in only 0.85 per cent of portraits. Similarly, the tuxedo is worn by just 1 per cent. That makes her one of the rarest World of Women NFTs in existence.
The 10,000 portraits were released to the public on 27 July 2021. Each priced at 0.07 ETH — a blockchain-based digital currency — the equivalent of about $225 at the time, they sold out in 10 hours.
A large part of the draw for many initial collectors was World of Women’s philanthropy. Karkai put 15 per cent of the sale proceeds into a fund to reinvest in other crypto-art projects, while an additional 7.5 per cent was split between charities dedicated to educating girls and ending child marriage, and a community member who needed emergency surgery.
Within months, World of Women portraits were being endorsed by celebrities including the Hollywood stars Eva Longoria and Reese Witherspoon — who changed her profile picture on Twitter to a World of Women avatar.
Interest in the portraits wasn’t confined to women. Among the men who began to collect them were the pop star Liam Payne and YouTuber Logan Paul.
Soon they were changing hands on the secondary market for hundreds of thousands of dollars. In January, Paul sold one of his 30-strong collection for a record 200 ETH, or $765,000.
The 10,000 portraits are now collectively valued at a quarter of a billion dollars.
In the spirit of inclusiveness, Karkai decided to let the members of the World of Women community vote for which NFT should be consigned to Christie’s. Woman #5672 was their choice.
‘Our community is what makes us,’ Karkai told Nicole Sales, Christie’s business director of Digital Art and NFTs, during a panel discussion.
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‘They share our values, moderate us, and root for our success, and by offering this work at Christie’s it shows them that women, minorities and digital artists all have a voice and opportunities.
‘I want to see more investment in diverse people, and to reach a point where collectors don’t question themselves before becoming involved in a project that is led by women or minorities. It should be a no-brainer.’