Damien Hirst burns £10 million of his own art to make point about NFTs
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Artist Damien Hirst has been burning thousands of pieces of his own art – worth up to a staggering £10 million – just to make a point about NFTs for a new exhibition.
Damien, 57, is known for his classic polka dot-style artworks, but as part of his new stunt, The Currency, the British artist has been setting the pieces ablaze in contained fires.
It all started back in July 2021, when collectors of 10,000 original pieces of his art were given an opportunity to either keep the original, or exchange it for a non-fungible token (NFT).
While a majority of 5,149 collectors opted to keep the physical copy of their original art, the remaining 4,851 decided to go with the NFT. Each piece is worth around £2,000, and the value of all 4,851 burned artworks totals at a whopping £9.702 million.
For the next stage of his project, Damien is burning the 4,851 'unwanted' physical artworks at Newport Street Gallery, London.
The Currency exhibition is said to be a work of art in which people participate by buying, holding, selling and exchanging the artworks.
The exhibition sees Damien, dressed in silver metallic boiler-suit trousers and fire safety gloves, taking each piece and burning it in a contained fire box.
Damien said that, at first, he was 'worried' about the bold stunt, but is happy he went with it, explaining: "I think the reality of it is that it’s more transformational. It feels like the NFTs are sort of being (made) permanently as NFTs.
"I’m kind of rooted in the physical art world and I find the digital art world more challenging but I think this has to be part of the process to create truly digital artworks is to destroy the physical artworks as the two can’t exist at the same time."
The artist added that he didn't see it as a waste, since he's 'not burning my art, I’m transforming it into NFTs'.
If you're unfamiliar, an NFT, or non-fungible token, is a digital certification of authenticity and ownership that is stored on a system similar to those used for cryptocurrencies.
Reflecting on the future of digital artwork, he said: “I think they’re just an important part of our world, NFTs, of course people, some people, are going to think these are a waste of materials but some people think other people are a waste of space."
Daniel Hirst originally created the 10,000 original pieces by hand back in 2016, using enamel paint on handmade paper with no colour repeated twice on one piece.
The title of each artwork was generated through a machine which learned some of Hirst's favourite song lyrics.
The artist also personally numbered, titled, stamped, and signed each individual piece, with a watermark and hologram containing a portrait of Hirst on the back.
Before he burns each piece, Daniel shows it to a camera to log its unique code to keep track of every piece that had been burnt.
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