Nearly 5,000 works by Damien Hirst will go up in smoke. Transformed into NFT, they are in fact condemned to the stake by the artist himself. In September, a bonfire will be held in London to permanently remove the material versions of the paintings.
As part of his first NFT project, “The Currency”, launched in 2021, British artist Damien Hirst sold 10,000 abstract paintings, posing a dilemma to buyers: choose to keep them physically or virtually. 4,851 buyers finally opted for the NFT version at the expense of its physical replica. The latter will then be set on fire on 9 September at the Newport Street Gallery in London, as part of an exhibition. A sensational autodafé for an artist who is not at the first provocation.
A difficult choice
In 2016, Damien Hirst produced a series of abstract paintings on paper, resulting from an infinite variation of applied color dots. They are therefore part of his series of Spot paintings started in 1986. Each painting is numbered and has a unique title automatically generated from the lyrics of the artist’s favorite songs. Each of the works is authenticated by various elements, including the artist’s signature on the back, or a hologram portrait of the latter.
This collection, entitled The coin, contains 10,000 tangible paintings, all linked to an NFT, a digital file that serves as a certificate of authenticity that includes digitized versions of the front and back of each work. Their sale was organized from 14 to 21 July 2021 on the Heni platform, at £ 2,000 per NFT. Its specificity lay in the choice (carnelian) that was imposed on the buyers: to keep the physical work or to prefer its dematerialized equivalent. The approximately 5,000 buyers had one year, or until July 27, 2022, to decide. In a tweet posted on his official account, Damien Hirst revealed the final distribution that day: ” The year is over boom! It passed quickly! And we all had to decide: NFT or physical? The final numbers are: 5,149 physical and 4,851 NFT. “
The year is over boom 💥 it was fast! and we all had to decide: NFT or physical? The final numbers are: 5,149 physical and 4,851 NFT (which means I will have to burn 4,851 corresponding physical races). pic.twitter.com/xCUJ0gviZ0
– Damien Hirst (@hirst_official) July 27, 2022
Monetization of art
The destruction of the 4,851 paintings will take place on 9 September, as part of the “The Currency” exhibition, at the Newport Street Gallery in London. The works will be burned by the artist every day, at a specific time, until October. The remaining pieces will be destroyed during Frieze Week, which will mark the end of the exhibition.
In addition to the media dimension of the event, Damien Hirst’s project stems from a reflection on the monetization of art and, its corollary, the desacralization of the work. He puts forward the idea that a work is a commodity like any other. In his opinion, The coin ” it speaks above all of art and people, but it questions the notions of belief and value more generally, especially value in art. He also plays with the idea that art can be seen as a currency and an investment. “.
A sulphurous artist
Damien Hirst, a former Fine Arts student at Goldsmiths College, made a name for himself in the 1990s with his animal carcasses cut into pieces (cows, sharks, pigs, etc.) and preserved in formalin, such as Mother and son divided (Mother and son, separated, 1993). Winner of the prestigious Turner Prize in 1995, he was permanently pushed to the rank of bankable contemporary artists in 2007 with his sculpture he For God’s sake, a replica of a human skull encrusted with over 8,000 diamonds, and a retrospective dedicated to him in 2012 at the Tate Modern in London. In 2021 he presented his new Cherry Blossoms series, Cherry blossomsat the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art in Paris.