At the Art Basel festival in Miami in 2019, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan hung a banana from a nearby grocery store on a gallery wall. He sold the house for $120,000 under the name Comedian. Since the banana wasn’t part of the deal, the buyers didn’t have to worry about how quickly it would go bad. They paid for a certificate of authenticity that told them exactly how high and at what angle to hang the fruit.
After Cattelan won in South Florida, Miami has become a breeding ground for a new kind of garish art. The city is now a crypto hotspot because the mayor accepts bitcoin as payment. In the spring of 2021, Yuga Labs released the Bored Ape Yacht Club, a group of tokens that can’t be used to buy or sell anything else. Each NFT is shown by a cartoon gorilla with a different color scheme, expression on its face, and clothes. (For example, one ape is dark, has a clean shave, and wears sunglasses. Another is dressed in leopard print and has a rainbow of colors in its mouth.) The BAYC made about $2 million during its first run. Nowadays the bored ape yacht club most expensive and unique nfts. Sotheby’s recently made more than $24 million selling 107 gorillas. More and more people are endorsing celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Eminem, Shaquille O’Neal, Post Malone, Snoop Dogg, Mark Cuban, and Steph Curry. During a recent appearance on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton talked about owning apes in a way that was like a bad infomercial. To join the club, each of them gave more than $50,000.
People made fun of how scary the Fallon-Hilton monkey scene was, which brought it a lot of attention online. As NFTs become more popular, people who don’t like them continue to find them disgusting and annoying for many different reasons. The Ethereum blockchain is where most of these tokens are traded, which uses a lot of electricity. So, buying and selling NFTs can make private jet travel around the world to buy Picassos look like a good way to help the environment. Fraud is also a problem on the big marketplaces. Recently, one of the biggest markets revealed that more than 80% of the NFTs made using its free option were spam, fakes, or copied work. But even “real” NFT businesses may have the annoying persistence of a friend who used to be a regular but is now constantly selling oils on Instagram. At the end of the day, the only way to make money off of a digital image of an ape certificate of authenticity is if someone pays a lot more than what you paid for it. There is, of course, a second major complaint, which can be summed up as follows: They look like fools.
Yes, the NFT market is big, and among the cheesy cartoon animals, there are projects that look good that are getting a lot of attention. Some of the most well-known NFTs are the Bored Ape Yacht Club, the cute CryptoKitties, and Beeple’s grotesques. However, they all have one thing in common: they are all based on a game. They are mostly just tricks.
What is the meaning of the word “gimmicky”? In her upcoming book Theory of the Gimmick, cultural historian Sianne Ngai says, “Our basic definition of a gimmick requires knowing that mispriced goods are often bought and sold in capitalism.” She uses this phrase to talk about many different things, like a cooking tool advertised on late-night TV and a part of a short story that is too complicated. Ngai doesn’t always dislike gimmicks; she thinks that cheap tricks can be interesting when they’re done well. She thinks that Henry James’s later works show that he was good at using tricks. A good gimmick is both funny and confusing. the unfriendly type? Ngai says that we often find it “comically unpleasant” when gimmicks trick people even though they are clearly overvalued.
Two of the people who started the Bored Ape Yacht Club call themselves “literary bros.” Their nicknames are “Gargamel” and “Gordon Goner.” One of them has a master’s degree, and the other asn’t even finished high school. In an interview with the cryptocurrency news site Coindesk, they talked about their monkeys in terms of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea of the unsayable. They said that the first time they talked to each other was about the books of David Foster Wallace. In the end, they fit the description of men who might buy Theory of the Gimmick. There’s no doubt that they used a trick. The apes make more than a billion dollars (yes, a billion), could get money from Andreessen Horowitz, are often on the covers of magazines, and work with Adidas. Even though many studies of the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s social phenomenon ignore the artistic value of its photos when looking at its history, the lack of artistic value is important. Many famous works of art, like Marcel Duchamp’s urinal from 1917, Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” photograph from 1987, and a large part of Maurizio Cattelan’s work from more recently, all fit Ngai’s definition of “gimmick.”