Crypto crash or burn? Damien Hirst will set his paintings on fire for the NFT project


It was a project always destined to go up in smoke, at least in part. And now Damien Hirst has announced that he will be burning thousands of his paintings at London’s Newport Street Gallery as part of his year-long NFT project, simply titled Currency.

Opening September 9, visitors to Hirst’s private museum will have the chance to view some of the 10,000 oil-on-paper paintings the artist created in 2016, which he then linked to corresponding NFTs in 2021. Buyers had the option of purchasing one of 10,000 NFTs for $2,000 each, and were then asked to choose whether to keep them or exchange them for the physical labor. If it is the first, the painting will now be exposed before being burned. The works must be destroyed daily for the duration of the show, culminating in a closing event during Frieze Week in October, when the remaining paintings will be set on fire.

As of this writing, and with one day to decide, 4,137 people have traded their NFTs for physical work, with 5,863 NFTs remaining.

10,000 paintings were created for The Currency project with HENI.

Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. Courtesy of Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2022.

Describing the project as his “most exciting by far”, Hirst previously said The arts journal that he “touches on the idea of ​​art as currency and a store of wealth”. He adds: “This project explores the frontiers of art and money – when art changes and becomes money, and when money becomes art. It is no coincidence that governments use art on coins and banknotes. They do this to help us believe in money. Without art, it is difficult for us to believe in anything.

Of course, Hirst has used the market for support for decades. In 2007, he made For God’s sake, a sculpture consisting of a platinum cast of an 18th-century human skull encrusted with 8,601 diamonds. In a move that predates the current trend of tokenizing artworks, the work was sold in August 2007 (for £50m, according to Hirst) to a consortium that included the artist himself.

A year later, as Lehman Brothers collapsed and the global economy collapsed, Hirst sold 287 works directly from his studio at Sotheby’s for £111 million. Not only was the event unprecedented in its scale and ambition, it also eliminated the gallery middleman and ultimately flooded Hirst’s market, which never truly recovered.

As for Currency, Heni Analytics produced a monthly report analyzing the buying and selling of Hirst’s NFTs in the secondary market, the value of which has fallen sharply since the start of the project and as the crypto has fallen. The first report notes how, between July 30 and August 31, 2021, there were 2,036 sales of Currency totaling $47.9 million. Meanwhile, in June this year, only 170 sales took place, grossing a total of $1.4 million. The resale of physical books seems to be doing better. In January, one of the original paintings sold at Phillips in London for £18,900.


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