Bored Ape Yacht Club Artist Says Compensation ‘Definitely Not Ideal’

NFTs are everywhere, with algorithmically-generated avatar pics selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon spent a disturbing minute sharing their Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFTs on late night television. According to proponents of NFTs, artists are able to reclaim some dignity with the technology. But, as was just revealed to be the case with the elite-tier BAYC, that’s not always true.

The people behind the BAYC collection, Yuga Labs, have made millions. But someone had to design the now-iconic apes. Every grin and hat and disinterested eye was lovingly crafted by artists before it was fed into an algorithm. In a new interview at Rolling Stone, BAYC lead artist Seneca shared a conflicted experience working in the NFT space.

Seneca is an artist specializing in disturbing and dreamlike imagery. She was the lead designer of the BAYC collection and did many of the initial sketches. She didn’t draw every hat, shirt, and ape herself, but she’s responsible for much of the overall design. “Not a ton of people know that I did these drawings, which is terrible for an artist,” she told Rolling Stone.

Yuga Labs did pay Seneca for her work, and though she wouldn’t disclose the details of the transaction, she said it “was definitely not ideal.” 

She’s still hyped on crypto, web3, and NFTs, but she said she learned some valuable lessons working on BAYC. She told Rolling Stone that artists should ask for royalties and understand NFTs and smart contracts before taking on a project like BAYC. 

“Things move very, very fast on crypto-Twitter and in this space,” she told Rolling Stone. “As long as you keep an eye on it, but pay no mind and just focus in your lane, you’ll do fine eventually.”

Predictably, NFT people began to fight online after Rolling Stone published Seneca’s comments. While many observers were disturbed by Seneca’s withering, if vague, comment, pointing out that web3 and NFTs were supposed to be better for artists than the alternative, others were less sympathetic. 

The vast majority of people shouting out the article online, even those with BAYC avatars, were supportive of Seneca. But Seneca is also supportive of the community. She routinely tweets a hearty GM in the morning, and worked on another NFT project that generated around 23.7 ETH, or about $84,000.

Seneca’s ”definitely not ideal” experience with Yuga Labs and BAYC raises questions about the wider NFT space. If BAYC, the most elite and popular NFT collection, didn’t make its lead artist happy, then what about the thousands of smaller collections? Twitter is rife with callouts by NFT projects looking for artists and offering the vague promise of compensation. 

Seneca told Rolling Stone she’s bullish on NFTs in general and thinks they can be good for the artist—as long as they speak up and get what they deserve.

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