Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), or simply Bored Ape, is a non-fungible token (NFT) collection on the Ethereum blockchain. The collection features profile pictures of apes that are generated by an algorithm. Yuga Labs generated the project on April 30, 2021. Owners of a Bored Ape NFT are granted access to a private online club and intellectual property rights for the image.
The popularity of BAYC was considerably documented by 2022; sales of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs have totaled over $1 billion and celebrities have purchased these non-fungible tokens. The collection has also received criticism from online users.
Development and function
According to the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) website, the NFT collection was created by four friends who “set out to make some dope apes, test skills, and try to build something (ridiculous).”Bored Ape NFTs, like other NFTs created and used for digital art purposes aim to provide its owners the “original” artwork. Bored Ape NFTs owners are considered in possession of “a unique unit of data recorded in a digital blockchain, which permanently records its provenance or sales history.”
The collection exists on the Ethereum blockchain and contains 10,000 unique NFTs. The NFTs dually functions as a membership card to Yacht Club. Membership to the club includes access to “The Bathroom” (stylized in all caps), a digital graffiti board. The NFTs were originally sold for 0.08 ether each, around $190 at the time of their April 2021 launch.
As BAYC “has made it clear that NFT holders have full commercialization rights to their ape,” Bored Apes differ from other NFTs in that “whomever owns a Bored Ape can spin it into whatever film, music, TV, book, or media project they want.”
Two of the founders of BAYC, going by the pseudonyms “Gargamel” and “Gordon Goner”, describe themselves as “literary bros”. The two told The New Yorker they initially bonded by arguing about the work of David Foster Wallace and in an interview CoinDesk, “they evoked Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea of the unutterable to describe [Bored Apes].”The two of them grew up together in Miami. The other two founders go by the pseudonyms “No Sass” and “Emperor Tomato Ketchup”. The latter derived his alias from the 1996 Stereolab album of the same name, itself named after the 1971 film.
In February 2022, Gargamel and Gordon Goner’s identities were revealed to be Greg Solano and Wylie Aronow, respectively, by BuzzFeed News. Upon this reveal, Nicole Muniz, the CEO of Yuga Labs confirmed BuzzFeed’s report. Solano and Aronow went to Twitter, commenting they were doxxed and uploaded images of themselves next to their Bored Ape profile pictures. Solano is a writer and editor, while No Sass and Emperor Ketchup are programmers. Aronow has been documented as planning to attend an MFA program, before falling ill and becoming a cryptocurrency day trader.
Solano and Aronow brought in two friends of theirs, No Sass and Emperor Tomato Ketchup, programmers who could handle the blockchain coding. The latter two were knowledgeable in computer science, having studied the field at the same university Solano attended; however, they “were not crypto-savvy,” having both written their first lines of Solidity code, a language used for smart contracts, in February 2021.
Concept and art design
Solano and Aronow came up with the concept of “a shared digital canvas: anyone who bought in could draw on it.” They likened this canvas as being used similar to a bathroom at a dive bar; this idea stuck with the two, and they created a science-fiction storyline centered around it. In an interview with The New Yorker, Aronow elaborated on the concept, which centered on early cryptocurrency investors all becoming billionaries:
Now they’re just fucking bored. What do you do now that you’re wealthy beyond your wildest dreams? You’re going to hang out in a swamp club with a bunch of apes and get weird.
Aronow clarified that apes were chosen as a mascot for the NFT because of the cryptocurrency phrase aping in, meaning to buy into a new currency or NFT with abandon, risking a significant amount of money.
All Seeing Seneca, or simply Seneca, an Asian-American artist is credited as the lead designer of the artwork featured in Bored Ape NFTs. Seneca clarified that she was not the sole illustrator of the artwork, but the “lead artist of the original collection” and that the ape’s body is “exactly line-for-line” her drawing.
BAYC co-founder Gargamel stated that “Thomas Dagley, Migwashere, and a couple who chose to remain anonymous” handled traits and environments. Seneca did however, “develop some of the major traits, like the grinning mouth, the popping eyes, and the beanie.”Gargamel stated he was “struck” by the expressiveness of Seneca’s characters and that “for the apes, we arrived at exactly the mood we were after: existential boredom.”Although unable to share specifics, Seneca did state her financial compensation was not ideal, and stated that “not of ton of people know that I did these drawings, which is terrible for an artist.”
Popularity and celebrity collectors
Bored Apes have been documented by the media as one of the more prominent NFTs. In December 2021, the Bored Ape Yacht Club overtook CryptoPunks as the highest-priced NFTs. Bored Apes, along with other character-based NFTs, would become “a status symbol for owners who regularly use their animated creatures as avatars on social media.”Many Bored Ape NFT owners admitted to purchasing their Apes due to the potential marketing and branding projects that can be launched through owning the intellectual property of a Bored Ape NFT.
On January 4, 2022, Markets Insider wrote that “since its inception, the collection has amassed around 11,000 unique owners, according to CryptoSlam. On average, an ape has sold for 84 ether or roughly $344,000 as of publishing.”Companies were also noted to purchase Bored Ape NFTs; Adidas bought one in September 2021. Many online media publications wrote about celebrities collecting Bored Apes in late 2021 and early 2022; Eminem, Gwyneth Paltrow, Shaquille O’Neal, Snoop Dogg, Mark Cuban, Post Malone, Stephen Curry, Paris Hilton, Jimmy Fallon, and Serena Williams are among various celebrities noted to have purchased Bored Apes. In some cases of celebrities owning Bored Ape NFTs, such as with Justin Bieber, it has been reported that the actual purchase of the NFT may not have been made by the celebrity themselves.
Artistic merits and criticism
The Bored Ape NFTs have attracted a considerable amount of negative reception with many detractors of BAYC having opined that the NFTs have had a negative impact on artists. Nevertheless, the Bored Ape design has been positively received; Samantha Hissong of Rolling Stone wrote that “Bored Ape art isn’t as valuable as it is because it’s visually pleasing, even though it is. It’s valuable because it also serves as a digital identity.”Emma Roth of The Verge wrote that apes were “very interesting-looking and sometimes fashionable.”Cited by Intelligencer in January 2022, Roman Kräussl, an art-finance professor at the University of Luxembourg and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, stated that NFT works like Bored Apes (in addition to CryptoPunks and Cool Cats) had already become iconic.
Writing for The Cut, Claire Lampen commented, “I find the monkey mostly unremarkable, generically familiar, and not very much to my liking if not wholly offensive,” and added that “[celebrities] really want us to enjoy this monkey, clap for this monkey, know what this monkey is. They can’t make me. I won’t let them.”Jonathan Jones of The Guardian was critical of the Bored Apes NFTs’ impact on digital art. Jones opined that the NFT “should put an end to any romanticism about NFT art. It puts the consumer experience first and has absolutely nothing to do with empowering artists. It’s all about the collector’s ego.”He also wrote that “The attitude says it all. Bored, emptied out, wrecked, and proud of it. That’s how the NFT art investors all feel, apparently. And so they should. NFTs are not good for art. They are not liberating for artists.”
A Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon segment featuring Fallon and Paris Hilton showing off their Bored Apes was mocked by users on Twitter. Wired wrote that “The Fallon-Hilton ape segment went viral, fueled by people making fun of how off-putting it was. As NFTs go mainstream, they continue to repulse and irk their critics, who have several compelling reasons to loathe them.”Writing for the publication, Kate Knibbs wrote negatively of Bored Apes, and contrasted it to Comedian, a 2019 artwork by Maurizio Cattelan:
The Bored Ape Yacht Club, in contrast, is a grimmer kind of gimmick, one that parodies nothing. It uses certificates of authenticity, too, but with a crucial difference in intent. The certificate points back to a commodity, not an idea. It doesn’t mock or even question the art world; instead it simply cashes in on it. The project’s sense of humor is akin to a decal of Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes taking a piss. The crudeness is the point. Each ape is a misprized thing, bought and sold constantly.
“Bored_Ape” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, n.d.