Bored Ape Yacht Club was launched back in April 2021 and has since changed the culture of the internet forever. NFTs weren’t the phenomenon then that they are now, but something about the apes captured the imaginations of people all over the world.
The thing is, Bored Ape Yacht Club wasn’t even an instant success. It took 12 hours to sell-out — a long time in the world of crypto. It was only once word got out on Twitter that they started selling at all. Yet, today, one Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT is valued at roughly $300,000.
The question is — why? Why did these apes in the same pose grab the hearts and minds of so many? Clearly there’s more to the story than just someone designing a group of bored-looking ape faces.
So, let’s dive in and get some answers.
The Bored Ape Yacht Club was founded by four people based in Miami, Florida.
The initial founders, Greg Solano and Wylie Aronow, had managed to remain anonymous for almost an entire year before their identities were revealed by Buzzfeed News in February of 2022.
The pair originally met through their shared love of literature — they allegedly bonded over a heated debate about the work of writer David Foster Wallace. Bored Ape Yacht Club was their vision, and they claim to have been inspired by the philosophical idea of the unutterable — something that is impossible to describe.
No NFT project is complete without software programmers, and Solano and Aronow certainly didn’t work alone. Enter “Emperor Tomato Ketchup” and “No Sass”, names which we assume (and hope) are aliases.
The two programmers were capable of coding on the blockchain, but neither of them had worked on NFT projects before — let alone one so massive in scale.
Their motivation? Simpler than you might think. They’ve shared that their main motivation was to “set out to make some dope apes, test [their] skills, and try to build something (ridiculous).” Their reasoning for choosing apes was because they liked apes. Fair enough.
The result of building something ridiculous was the Bored Ape Yacht Club, an NFT collection of 10,000 bored-looking apes minted as NFTs with different, unique attributes from hats, glasses, to jewelry.
While each ape wasn’t drawn individually — there are 10,000 of them — each element was created with meticulous care by artist and designer All Seeing Seneca (or, simply, Seneca).
The elements and basic design for the apes was then put into a randomizer and minted. This process is how most NFT projects, especially large-scale ones, are created.
What Solano and Aronow wanted to achieve with the Bored Ape Yacht Club was to find a way to use their creativity, all while contributing to the crypto movement and pushing the boundaries of the NFT world.
The project as a whole was meant to represent the future billionaires who will have nothing better to do than sit around bored in a yacht club, sipping on some bourbon and talking business. It also represents early investors in crypto who dove, or “aped”, into the industry open-minded and swooped up all the good projects that made them millionaires.
Even today, going all-in to crypto is called “aping” — a clever connection that the founders wanted to exploit.
The world had never seen anything like it before. Despite a slow start, word got around on Twitter, and the collection sold out within 12 hours. The complete Bored Ape Yacht Club collection is worth $3 billion today. The Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT project is one of the biggest brands on the market, and changed the internet as we know it today. Who knows if NFTs would have entered the mainstream consciousness if Bored Ape Yacht Club hadn’t been created.
So, why the buying frenzy? As with a lot of exclusive NFT projects, owning an NFT from the collection gets you more than the NFT. Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT owners get access to new collections, early access to drops, commercial rights to their NFT, and access to the exclusive Bored Ape Yacht Club… er, club — a community of some of the most influential people in this space and in the world.
Actors, innovators, a certain heiress… These are just some of the people who are a part of the club, and to get a chance to brush shoulders with them is something a lot of people are willing to pay a lot of money to get. The collection had become a status symbol.
As Miami natives, the founders would be familiar with the yacht club scene — if not personally, then through assimilation. Clearly their experiences with the wealthy who lounge around with nothing to do resonated with the elite of the world. All they had to do was wait for the rest to follow.
Celebrities from Justin Bieber to Paris Hilton to Stephen Curry are part of the Bored Ape Yacht Club community, and these Bored Apes are popping up everywhere as people’s profile pictures thanks to new drives by social media platforms to push the use of NFTs. Not to mention, the cheapest Bored Ape on the market right now is still worth 6-figures.
Bored Ape Yacht Club has seen great success beyond the crypto space, and the collection has even collaborated with big-name brands like Adidas who are diving into the world of Web3.
They’ve since launched other collections such as the Mutant Apes Yacht Club– and they’ve even launched their very own token currency, Apecoin.
And it doesn’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. With success, however, comes a few downsides.
Bored Ape Yacht Club makes the news every time it gets hacked, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of NFTs compromised at a time. One of the most notorious ones so far involved the theft of Seth Green’s piece, which became a problem because he was due to create a movie based on it. With his NFT stolen, the movie has been put on hold, which means no Bored Ape movie for us (yet! Seth Green and the guy who was sold the NFT are suing the thief, so we might just get our Bored Ape movie).
This raises questions of security surrounding the apes, as people don’t want to invest their hard-earned money into something that could just be stolen by hackers — notably something crypto claims is impossible on the blockchain. As long as people continue falling for scams, digital goods will remain at risk.
Another criticism of Bored Ape Yacht Club is how it positions artists. Remember how only elements of the NFTs were originally drawn while the rest were randomized by a computer? This technique has driven criticism that big NFT collections like Bored Ape Yacht Club are driven by consumerism rather than supporting artists.
While supporters of NFTs say that artists are empowered through NFT collections, others say that the very concept of NFTs as computer-generated images are a parody of art, and don’t benefit the artists because of how easily they can be replicated or stolen.
In a rather infamous article published with The Guardian, Jonathan Jones wrote, “[Bored Ape Yacht Club ] puts the consumer experience first and has absolutely nothing to do with empowering artists. It’s all about the collector’s ego…”
Consumerism and late-stage capitalism are all criticisms thrown at the collection, and are both points that work against the assertion that the success of the collection means helping artists everywhere.
What many people don’t know is the case of an artist close to the Bored Ape Yacht Club project. Seneca, the artist behind the design of the original ape, has gone unrecognized in favor of the original four founders. As a woman in a male-dominated space as well as an artist, she’s expressed disappointment at how she’s largely been overlooked in the hype and discussions around the project, as well as her original compensation not being “ideal”. She states she’s hoping to get more work from the exposure Bored Ape Yacht Club has given her, a situation that she shouldn’t be in as the creative mind behind the billion dollar collection.
Like most controversies, Bored Ape Yacht Club’s statements on the role of artists and how they should be compensated is complicated. Despite how big the project is, it’s perhaps not the best example of the potential NFTs have for artists.
Instead, the reason Bored Ape Yacht Club has seen such massive influence on internet culture is due to digital identity, which is partially why pieces in the collection go for such a premium. Arguments about the role of the artist are valid in other NFT spaces, but in regards to Bored Ape Yacht Club, the role of art and the artist is discarded in favor of the kind of person you are and how you want the world to see you.
Basically, the message of the Bored Ape Yacht Club comes down to asking yourself, “What does this say about me?”
And even if the Bored Ape Yacht Club isn’t your thing, it’s not too late to jump in on the NFT craze. In fact, it’s just the beginning.
There are so many incredible artists and people in this space, and you don’t have to limit yourself to investing in the Bored Ape Yacht Club or any of its sister projects, especially if you don’t agree on the sentiment behind them, or how prohibitively inaccessible they are. There will be tons of collections that see the same kind of success as Bored Ape Yacht Club. It’s just a matter of being able to spot the early signs of the next big hit, and getting in early.
But the Bored Ape Yacht Club is the perfect collection to understand the broad appeal of NFTs, why a collection goes viral, and what people on the internet want. The signs of success were all there before Bored Ape Yacht Club was even minted — you just had to know how to spot them.
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