Artist Damien Hirst will burn his NFT-associated paintings

The British artist presents his first exhibition with NFT this Friday. To celebrate the occasion, he intends to burn the physical works of art associated with NFTs.

What is a more precious work of art, physical or digital? Damien Hirst presents his first exhibition in London on Friday with NFTs, these digital reproductions that are shaking the art market, during which the British will burn his own paintings.

In Damien Hirst’s gallery in south London, the panels show more than 5 meters high 10,000 paintings by the 57-year-old artist on A4 sheets. Multicolored dots as far as the eye can see. And on the back of the sheets, the title of the work: handwritten phrases taken from the artist’s favorite passages. “Dead bird”, “I can see it now”, “Spending millionaire”, etc. Upstairs in the gallery, six fireplaces are just waiting to be used.

$ 2000 each

The works date back to 2016, but it was two years after the “The Currency” project started to take its current form. Damien Hirst, one of the most respected artists in the world, therefore conceived his first NFT project. Acronym of “Non-Fungible Token”, the NFT is a “non-fungible token”, that is, it is not replaceable and therefore unique. In concrete terms, it is a theoretically non-falsifiable digital certificate of authenticity, registered in a “blockchain” (a chain of blocks), just like cryptocurrencies. NFTs have been raiding the art world for several years.

Damien Hirst, a deliberately provocative artist, presented “The Currency” in July 2021. The 10,000 works went on sale, for $ 2,000 each. Each of the 10,000 paintings, all similar to multicolored dots, signed by Damien Hirst and with an autographed phrase on the back of the artist inspired by the lyrics of his favorite songs, correspond to an NFT. Prices rose rapidly in the market, with the price of one of the 10,000 works rising to $ 172,239.

diamond skull

Buyers had one year, until July 27, to choose: either they opted for paint or NFT. More than half (5,149) decided to continue painting, the others preferred NFT. The latter’s physical artwork will then be burned.

“It’s an experience. (…) We force people to make a choice”, sums up the artist in a video.

Damien Hirst himself will light the fire in the gallery’s fireplaces on 11 October, during Frieze Week, one of the largest contemporary art fairs in the world. He will only burn part of the 4,851 paintings, the others will be burned gradually until the end of the exhibition on October 30th.

“Conceptual artists in the 60s and 70s used to say that art doesn’t exist in the art object, it exists in the mind of the beholder, and this project is not really different,” says Damien Hirst. “Art does not have to exist in the physical world, it can also exist in the digital world and now thanks to the blockchain there is also the ownership of that art”.

Since creating the diamond skull (“For the love of God”), one of his most famous works in 2007, the artist explains that he has thought about the concepts of wealth and value.

“This project explores the boundaries between art and currency, when art changes and becomes currency and when currency becomes art,” he continues.

Pauline Armandet with AFP

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