For his umpteenth variation of “spot paintings”, British artist Damien Hirst, who loves colored dots as much as greenbacks, is embarking on a new phase in his experimentation by mixing paper and NFT works. Faced with a difficult choice, buyers of the “The Currency Project” collection had until July 27 to choose the format they wanted to keep. The story ended head-to-head and will give rise to a spectacular wave of abandoned physical works in favor of their digital version.
NFT or physical works? buyers have decided
The unprecedented experiment led by British visual artist Damien Hirst is entering its final phase. As a reminder “The Currency Project” launched a year ago, combines a corpus of 10,000 paper works and as many non-fungible tokens (NFT), a gesture well in tune with the times of “crypto art”. But the singularity of the initiative is due to the fact that collectors at the end of a year of imprisonment had to make a choice: either to keep their NFT initially acquired for 2000 dollars, or to exchange it with the corresponding paperwork. The principle is that if the NFT was not delivered against a proper press, physical work is condemned to the stake. Otherwise, the non-fungible token will be destroyed.
As the deadline is July 27, 2022, we finally know the preferences of the buyers. And the least we can say is that NFTs are now firmly established in the field of contemporary art. We already knew that.
Experimentation à la Hirst confirms it with just under half of the buyers, that is 4,851 fans of “The Currency” opt for the NFT version, compared to 5,149 collectors who choose to exchange their NFTs for physical works.
The “Currency Project” in numbers
Initial sale and resale were handled by Heni Marketplace. Acclaimed since its launch, “The Currency Project” has slowed in recent months, as has the cryptocurrency market.
Thus, according to the monthly report produced by the platform, analyzing the exchange of NFTs on the secondary market, between 30 July and 31 August 2021 2036 sales were concluded for an amount of 47.9 million dollars. By comparison, just 170 sales were seen last June for a total of $ 1.4 million.
More generally, the maximum price for an NFT in the collection reached nearly $ 177,000 with buyers shelling out an average of $ 21,000 in Ether, USDC, or Dai to acquire one of the valuable digital tokens. According to Heni’s website, the total sale of the collection today is $ 89.3 million. Undoubtedly somewhat disappointing results for the visual artist, “the richest artist in the UK” according to The Guardian with an estimated £ 315 million fortune in 2020, who presumes his taste for money and even claims a cap from business man.
An organized autodafé
The most provocative phase of the project will begin on 9 September a book that burns in the form of a conclusion. In fact, all the works exhibited at the Newport Street Gallery in London, owned by the artist, corresponding to the NFT held by the collectors, will go up in smoke. A daily riot until the closing event during Frieze Week in October for an incendiary finale.
Describing the project as “by far the most exciting” of his career, Hirst explores an issue that has plagued him since its inception, namely the relationship between art and money.. An NFT being by nature more easily negotiable and transferable than a physical object, risks becoming a vector of radical upheaval in the mercantile relationship with art. But not only. By forcing the buyers of his works to choose between two versions, he forces them to question their own perception of art. The almost 50/50 choice of the public testifies that physical painting and digital avatar are now almost the same, at least in the advertising hype by superstar Hirst. However, it can be interpreted as a further indication of a changing contemporary art world.