David Shepherd Art of Survival Award WINNER 2021


Planet of the Drawed Apes

Martin Aveling

If art is supposed to reflect culture, then humanity’s relationship with wildlife is conspicuous by its absence. Flicking through any popular art history book and trying to find a wild animal can feel like a poncy game of ‘Where’s Wally?’ (or 'Waldo' to my American friends). Early cave paintings notwithstanding, wildlife has long been ignored by mainstream art.

The rise of social media has shown that animal inspired art is widely practiced, and in the Web 3.0 space it remains as popular as ever. One of the most successful NFT collections, the ‘Bored Ape Yacht Club’ (BAYC), is testament to that. Right now you would struggle to pick up one of their programmatically generated apes for under $300,000, and they are just one of many animal themed collections that pepper the NFT marketplaces.

Coming from a family of conservationists it delights me to see wildlife being celebrated in art, however the link to conservation is hazy at best. It feels like there is an opportunity to close the education gap within the crypto art community and leverage financial support for wildlife in the real world. I feel that if one trades on the image of wildlife, one ought to also give back to wildlife. At this point a bored ape is probably the least endangered of all the apes*.

My new NFT collection, ‘Drawed Ape Philanthropy IRL’ is a collaboration with Wild Philanthropy. This partnership aims to support African wildlife and the people living closest to it by investing 50% from any NFTs sales into effective conservation programmes. 

Three drawings in a row featuring a chimpanzee, orangutan and a gorilla

The collection consists of a limited number of ape drawings, each created using just three colours. Only half of the ape’s face is visible, referring to the vulnerability and endangered status of these animals in the wild. Rarity will be determined by how often specific colours are repeated in the collection, the type of ape featured, and which eye is depicted.

Drawing of half a chimpanzee face using three colours of pastel pencil

The collection's name is a nod to BAYC, whilst also referencing the tender age of crypto art and the internet in general. The apes are all hand drawn with pencil tools, so as to be in keeping with the ‘in real life’ (IRL) intentions of the project. Among other benefits, each token offers collectors a say in what future projects receive funding.

*Since publishing this blog I was encouraged to see an allocation of ApeCoin going to the Jane Goodall Legacy Foundation, and to learn that BAYC had previously supported 'Orangutan Outreach'. Flex more about that, please!

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