LONDON: Damien Hirst‘s most recent exhibition has thousands of the provocative British artist’s vibrant spot paintings, many of which he will burn after selling them as NFTs in digital form.
The exhibition “The Currency,” which debuts on Friday in London, is Hirst’s first endeavor utilizing NFTs, a cutting-edge technology that is becoming increasingly popular as a method of art ownership.
In the south of London’s Newport Street Gallery, 10,000 different spot paintings on A4-sized paper are spread across enormous panels.
The eye can see as far as the eye can see, a sea of colored dots. Each has handwritten sentences on the back that are taken from the lyrics of the 57-year-old artist’s favorite songs.
Six fires in the gallery upstairs are prepared to burn the artwork.The pieces were made by Hirst in 2016, while he was considering how paintings can function as a form of currency.
However, it wasn’t until two years later that the contemporary artist, whose works are among the most costly on the market, had the concept for the project in its current form.
Digital works known as NFTs, or “Non-Fungible Tokens,” are distinct because they cannot be replaced by anything else.
Each has a digital certificate of validity that is stored in a blockchain, similar to cryptocurrencies, and cannot be altered, at least in theory.
The 10,000 pieces of “The Currency” initiative went on sale for $2,000 each in July of last year.
The multicolored dot paintings all bear Hirst’s signature.Each had a unique NFT as well.
And values shot up quickly, with one picture fetching $172,239 at auction.The purchasers of the paintings were given the equivalent NFT and were given until July 27 of the next year to decide whether to keep the NFT or swap it for the original painting.
While the remaining people chose to keep the NFTs, more over half (5,149) chose to take the painting. Hirst now intends to destroy the 4,851 actual paintings made by people who opted for NFTs. “It’s an experiment… We’re forcing people to make their choice,””the performer claims in a video.On October 11, the day before one of the largest contemporary art shows in the world, Frieze London, opens, Hirst will personally light the pieces of art on fire at the gallery.
Only a few of the undesirable artworks will be burned; the others will be on display till October 30 when the exhibition ends.
“Conceptual artists in the 1960s and 1970s said art doesn’t exist in the art object, it exists in the mind of the viewer, and this project isn’t any different,” says Hirst.
“Art doesn’t have to just exist in the physical world, it can also exist in the digital world too and now because of the blockchain so can the ownership of that art.”
Hirst has made a living by expanding the parameters of art.
A shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde — “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” from 1991 — was one early work that got him noticed.
The artist claims that since displaying a diamond-encrusted skull in 2007 as part of “For the Love of God,” one of his most well-known pieces, he has been reflecting on the ideas of worth and money.
“This project explores the boundaries of art and currency — when art changes and becomes a currency, and when currency becomes art,” he says.