Last year, Hirst issued NFTs for 10,000 of his signature “spot” paintings. Credit: Courtesy of Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
At press time, and with less than a day to decide, 4,751 people had swapped their NFTs for a physical work, with 5,249 buyers willing to keep their NFTs.
Describing the project as “by far the most exciting”, Hirst told The Art Newspaper in March that it “addresses the idea of art as currency and a store of wealth”. He added: “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 notes. They do it to help us believe in without the art it’s hard for us to believe in anything.”
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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 predated the current trend of symbolizing art, the work was sold in August 2007 (for £50m, then around $100m, Hirst reportedly claimed) to a consortium that included the artist himself.
In 2008, the week Lehman Brothers collapsed and the global economy collapsed, Hirst sold 218 works directly from his studio through auction house Sotheby’s for £111 million ( then more than 200 million dollars). 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 really recovered.
Hirst described the projects as “by far the most exciting.” Credit: Courtesy of Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
As for “The Currency”, the NFT market that handled the initial sale, Heni, produced a monthly report analyzing the buying and selling of Hirst’s NFTs in the secondary market, which have fallen sharply in value since the beginning of the project and as cryptocurrencies fell. The first report notes how, between July 30 and August 31, 2021, there were 2,036 sales of “The Currency” for a total of $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 auction house in London for £18,900 ($23,000).