Artist Damien Hirst burns thousands of paintings for new project


This article was originally published by The Art Newspaper, an editorial partner of CNN Style.
It was a project that was always destined to go up in smoke, at least part of it. And now British artist Damien Hirst has announced that he will burn thousands of his paintings at his London gallery as part of his year-long NFT project, bare-bones titled ‘The Currency’.
Beginning September 9, visitors to Hirst’s private museum, Newport Street Gallery, will have the chance to view some of the 10,000 oil paintings on paper the artist created in 2016 and then linked to corresponding NFTs in 2021.
Buyers who bought one of the 10,000 NFTs for $2,000 each were asked to choose whether to keep it or trade it for the physical work. In the former case, the painting will now be put on display before being burned. The works are expected to be destroyed daily for the duration of the show, culminating in a closing event during Frieze Week in October, when the remaining paintings are set on fire.

Last year, Hirst issued NFTs for 10,000 of his signature “spot” paintings. Credit: Courtesy of Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.

At the time of publication, and with less than a day to decide, 4,751 people had traded their NFTs for a physical work, and 5,249 buyers were ready to keep their NFTs.

Hirst described the project as his “by far the most exciting,” told The Art Newspaper in March that it “touches on the idea of ​​art as a currency and store of wealth.” He added: “This project explores the boundaries of art and currency – when art changes and becomes a currency, and when currency becomes art. It is no accident that governments use art on coins and notes. They are doing this to help us believe in money. Without art it’s hard for us to believe in anything.”

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Of course, Hirst has been using the market as his medium for decades. In 2007, he created “For the Love of God,” a sculpture consisting of a platinum cast of an 18th-century human skull set with 8,601 diamonds. In a move that predated the current trend to symbolize art, the work was sold in August 2007 (for £50 million, then about $100 million, Hirst reportedly claimed) to a consortium that included the artist himself.

In 2008, during the week when Lehman Brothers crashed and the world economy collapsed, Hirst sold 218 works directly from his studio through auction house Sotheby’s for £111 million (then over $200 million). Not only was the event unprecedented in its magnitude and ambition, it also knocked out the gallery’s middleman – eventually flooding Hirst’s market, which never really recovered.

Hirst has described the projects as his "by far the most exciting."

Hirst has described the projects as his “most exciting by far.” Credit: Courtesy of Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.

As for “The Currency”, the NFT marketplace that handled the initial sale, Heni, has produced a monthly report analyzing the buying and selling of Hirst’s secondary market NFTs, which have grown strongly in value since the project began. has fallen and if cryptocurrencies have fallen. The first report mentions how there were 2,036 sales of “The Currency” between July 30 and August 31, 2021 for a total amount of $47.9 million. Meanwhile, only 170 sales took place in June this year, totaling $1.4 million.

The resale of physical works seems to be doing better. In January, one of the original paintings sold at Phillips auction house in London for £18,900 ($23,000).

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