provocative artist, Damien Hirst will burn several thousand of his paintings

Almost 5,000 works by Damien Hirst will go up in smoke. Converted into NFTs, they are actually doomed to play by the artist himself. A bonfire will be held in September 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 by presenting buyers with a dilemma: choose to keep them either physically or virtually. 4,851 buyers finally chose the NFT version over its physical replica. The latter will therefore be set on fire on 9 September in the Newport Street Gallery in London, as part of an exhibition. A sensational auto-da-fé for an artist who is not at his first provocation.


A difficult choice

In 2016, Damien Hirst produced a set of abstract paintings on paper that result from an infinite variety of applied color dots. They are thus part of his series of Spot paintings begun 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.

Each painting done by Damien Hirst for The Currency bears the artist’s handwritten signature. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2022

This collection, titled the currency, 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 lot. NFT. Its specificity lay in the (Cornelian) choice imposed on buyers: keep the physical labor or prefer its dematerialized equivalent. The approximately 5,000 buyers have had one year, i.e. until 27 July 2022, to decide. In a tweet published on his official account, Damien Hirst revealed the final distribution that day: ” The year is over boom! That went fast! And we all had to decide: NFT or physical? The final numbers are: 5,149 physical and 4,851 NFTs. »

Monetization of art

The destruction of the 4,851 paintings will take place on September 9, as part of “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 Frize Week, which will mark the end of the exhibition.
In addition to the media dimension of the event, Damien Hirst’s project is the result of a reflection on the monetization of art and, its consequence, the de-sacralization of the work. It puts forward the idea that a work is a commodity like any other. According to him, The currencyspeaks above all about art and people, but it more generally questions the notions of faith and value, especially value in art. He also plays with the idea that art can be seen as a currency and an investment. “.

Damien Hirst's paintings sold as NFTs as part of The Currency project, 2021. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.  © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.  All rights reserved, DACS 2022

Damien Hirst’s paintings sold as NFTs as part of The Currency project, 2021. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2022

A sulphurous artist

Damien Hirst, a former fine art student at Goldsmiths College, made a name for himself in the 1990s with his bodies of animals cut open (cows, sharks, pigs, etc.) and preserved in formalin, such as Mother and child shared (Mother and child, separated, 1993). Winner of the prestigious Turner Prize in 1995, he was definitively elevated to the ranks of bankable contemporary artists in 2007 with his sculpture For God’s sake, a replica of a human skull encrusted with more than 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.

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