Bored Apes: A community-driven NFT project
Bored Ape Yacht Club, also known simply as Bored Ape, is a collection of 10,000 unique non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the form of cartoon Apes living on the Ethereum Blockchain.
These NFTs are generated by an algorithm which combines over 170 possible traits, such as facial expressions, clothing, accessories and more. They are provably rare collectibles, whose provenance, sales history, and characteristics are permanently registered in the Blockchain.
The BAYC was founded in 2021 by the Miami-based editor Greg Solano and the cryptocurrency day-trader Wylie Aronow, who worked for a long time under the pseudonyms "Gargamel" and "Gordon Goner.” The team also consists of two other founders, “No Sass” and “Emperor Ketchup”, who are programmers familiar with blockchain technology.
THE REASON BEHIND ALL THIS SUCCESS
The first Bored Ape collection was minted on April 23rd, 2021, and it sold out on May, 1st 2021.
Quickly Bored Apes became the highest-priced NFTs, surpassing the famous CryptoPunks, as well as the most used smart-contact on Ethereum. Also, in the same year, the Bored Ape “Ape In!” auction organized at Sotheby’s achieved $26.2 million.
But what made them so popular?
Their success derives first of all from their format: these apes resemble the classic social media profile pictures, an avatar. This is something people could identify themselves with, associating the ape characters with their own personality and using it to represent themselves on social media platforms.
Also, the fact that they come as NFTs increase their value even more, since the avatar is unique, unreplaceable, and impossible to duplicate.
Furthermore, the choice of the ape derives from the term “aping in”, a phrase that, in relation to cryptocurrencies, means investing a significant amount of money and risks in buying a new currency of NFT.
Thus, the Ape is a symbol of success and wealth.
On the other hand, the adjective “bored” refers instead to the boredom that affects billionaire crypto investors after having collected huge amounts of money without knowing what to do with it.
In this regard, the founders provide a suggestion: “Hanging out in a secret club in the swamp, for apes only. And write graffiti on a collaborative pixel board on the club’s Bathroom wall.”
This idea is what led the creation of a real community around Bored Apes, which is what really added value to these NFTs project.
As a matter of fact, buying a Bored Ape NFT also guarantees the membership to the Yacht Club as well as other member-only benefits that can be unlocked in time.
Members of the club have access to “THE BATHROOM”, which is a digital and collaborative graffiti board where Ape owners can paint just one pixel every fifteen minutes on a virtual bathroom wallet.
In this way, users are motivated to be active on the platform and are directly involved in the project, rather than being passive NFTs owners, limiting themselves to showcase their property.
Additional benefits provided by the membership status include: first access to new NFT drops, NFT upgrades as well as free access to other clubs and areas of BAYC.
The other two additional clubs are the Kennel Club and the Mutant Ape Yacht Club.
The Bored Ape Kennel Club (BAKC) was born in June 2021 and consisted in a series of 10,000 dog shaped NFTs, which could be adopted for free (except the gas fee payment) by BAYC members.
Thus, these NFTs were not for sale, but they could only have been claimed by anyone who already possessed a Bored Ape.
Members had to claim their companions within 1 week only, after which the adoption drive came to a close.
On the one hand, this project was developed again to stimulate user involvement and to reward members with exclusive benefits.
However, it also was a charity initiative. Indeed, the BAKC collection was aligned with a secondary sale of NFTs dogs on Opensea, from which it earned a 2.5% royalty fee. This royalty fee was donated to no-kill animal shelters.
The Mutant Ape Yacht Club (MAYC) is a collection of 20,000 Mutant Apes, originating from already existing Bored Apes that acquire a zombie-like look.
Mutant Apes can be created by Bored Apes through the application of one among three tiers of mutant serum vials (M1, M2, and M3) or, by minting a Mutant Ape in the public sale.
Furthermore, together with the conception of Mutant Apes, the Mutant Apes Arcade was born, which is a computer game that stimulates a combat between an ape and a mutant gorilla.
The MAYC is a further way to reward BAYC members, providing them with a new, and possibly even more rare, NFT. Also, according to the team, the MAYC is the "final tier of membership" for Bored Apes holders.
BORED APES IS NOT ART: SOME CRITICAL VIEWPOINTS
Despite their unbelievable success, Bored Apes also received lots of criticism, and most of it came from the art world.
As has already been discussed, the Bored Apes design fits well as a profile picture but does not really achieve artwork status.
The first concern among art critics and journalists was the negative impact that Bored Apes generates on digital art. As Jonathan Jones of The Guardian argued, they put the consumer and collector desire to possess something unique and rare, over valorization of the artist in the first place.
Also, the traits of a Bored Apes collector are, according to Jones, explanatory of the phenomenon itself. These traits are boredom, emptiness, and desire for money.
Despite the fact that there are artists and talented designers behind Bored Apes, they fall into the categories of commodity and collectibles rather than works of art.
This is also reflected in the target audience which makes up the Bored Apes buyers. This target audience is comprised of celebrities and investors interested in the benefits that owning the IPR on a Bored Apes NFT can guarantee. Indeed, different from other kinds of NFTs holders, Bored Apes buyers are provided with the “full commercialization right” their NFTs, so that Bored Apes can be placed on films, music, books, TV shows and any kind of project involving their owners.
As Kate Knibbs argued, Bored Apes are not vehiculating any idea or critic. They pretend to be art pieces - having a certificate of authenticity and being original in their own kind - but in reality, they are simple commodities exploiting the art market to make money.
She also criticized the value that is attached to such NFTs, highlighting the fact that they are constantly bought and sold, and their prices do not even reflect their real value.
SOME FINAL REMARKS
Bored Apes is a successful and innovative example of how NFTs can be used to create value.
The community-oriented approach that characterizes this project really helps in overcoming the scepticism of those who see NFTs as simple digital pieces collected in a virtual wallet.
With Bored Apes, NFTs became the access key for a collaborative and exclusive virtual world, as well as a viral phenomenon.
They drew inspiration from early NFT ideas, such as Cryptopunks and Cryptokitties, and made something completely new. They have become the World’s biggest NFT project.
Also, Bored Apes triggers in some ways the same behaviours that belonged to traditional art collectors so far, but also made the act of collecting much more democratic, personal, accessible, and fun.
On the other hand, they are still far from being considered original artworks.
Despite the fact that the NFT phenomenon is becoming increasingly relevant for the art world, there are some points raised against the association of collectibles, like Bored Apes, and art.
There is a shared fear that NFTs will not empower artists and their art but are just a way to reach consumer satisfaction with new and popular means.