February 4, 2024•897 words
Botto, an AI art project created by German artist Mario Klingemann, has recently gotten a lot of press on twitter for a work of art sold for (checks notes) 41.447 ETH, which is $95,396.07 at the time of this writing [ https://superrare.com/0xb932a70a57673d89f4acffbe830e8ed7f75fb9e0/another-sector-31887 ]. On one hand, human artists are mad that an autonomous artist is gaining much more money they could ever dream of making from a single artwork. On the other hand, collectors are astonished that artists would feel this way because "we're all here for the art", right?
Let's dive into what Botto really is.
It's a decentralized autonomous organization (a DAO for short) that involves AI and human community participation in the creation of art. The AI generates images based on text prompts, which are then presented to the community for voting. The community's votes influence the direction of the project and determine which pieces of art are minted as NFTs and sold. Botto also has its native cryptocurrency, $BOTTO, which is a governance token enabling holders to participate in the voting process. In a recent interview with Coindesk, Klinkgemann clears the air on the $BOTTO: It’s the way you join the DAO. You acquire some Botto, you stake it, and that gives you voting points. That's interesting.
Who benefits from Botto anyways, if the artist is autonomous? Well, when the project sells an artwork, the proceeds are used to buy Botto tokens and burn them, and thereby removing them from circulation. The NFTs are designed such that any future sale will generate a 10 percent royalty back to Botto, which will also be used to buy and burn tokens. This process is intended to gradually raise the value of the remaining tokens, allowing participants to potentially make money selling their tokens in the future. So, what this means is the** top earners of the art proceeds are the largest contributors of $BOTTO - people with money. Artists are not usually known for having money. Why would curators be the ones making the most money off of an artist - if botto is indeed considered an "artist"? No one is talking about this.
"When I bought this botto last year there wasn’t a negative comment towards it, but it was completely different times back then for the space. More volume, more abundance back then. Which explains most of the outrage today imo, more to do with artists being frustrated with the state of the market vs anything else".
Plenty of AI artists, not many DAOs making AI art via an "autonomous artist." I don't think many will argue the aesthetic is what led to a sale. The concept and how early they were to it is what may be deemed valuable to some. The space pays a premium on unique ideas.
Here's my opinion on the matter. Yes, this is an interesting project that has lots of history behind it, I'm not arguing against that. Artists since forever have tried capitalizing on the autonomy of art and getting a machine to work for them. My problem with Botto is 1) how money influences the choice of which artworks Botto mints, 2) who benefits from Botto, 3) why are collectors drawn to this project, regardless of it's origins.
The logic behind Botto's voting mechanism is that people have to have at least 2,000 $BOTTO staked in the governance contract in order to vote for which artworks that it seems is worthy of minting.
50% of all protocol revenue within any given round is directly redistributed to Botto participants in ETH. The remaining 50% of revenue is held in the treasury. And the more $BOTTO you have staked, the more you are rewarded from the sales of Botto's artworks. I'm gonna break it down further: essentially, curators with money are being paid to choose which art they like, and it's not artists voting and being paid from this.
Collectors are drawn to this because, according to them, it's an interesting project. I hear collectors say "I'm here for the art", but that statement only really holds up when it's a human artist, and is thrown out the window when it's not from human origin. Why are we differentiating between "human" and "AI" origin when it comes to how we perceive the importance of the art itself? It doesn't really make much sense to me. This project only exists in the eyes of collectors and curators as something to be invested in. If the entire point is the investment, and not the art, then it's a bad investment. Not financial advice btw.
Lots of artists are jealous that Botto made this much money from a sale. I'm in this boat and I'm not ashamed to say it. Many artists that have art that is much more aesthetically pleasing, with larger portfolios, with real human experience of the muse (a sort of connection to the divine that is materialized through art), are not making even 5% what Botto is making - and Botto doesn't even have bills to pay. If you have to ask the question, "are you here for the art", I have to ask you: are you here for the artist. It goes both ways.