Damien Hirst, the artist famous for brining dead animals in the 1990s, is to burn thousands of his paintings next month in a project focused on art as currency.
Hirst, who was the UK’s richest artist in 2020 with a net worth of over £315million, will destroy artwork from his London gallery.
He created 10,000 unique dot paintings in 2016, each with its own title, which were then linked to corresponding NFTs and sold for $2,000 each. Buyers had the option of keeping the NFTs or exchanging them for the physical artwork. “The collector…can’t keep both.” This exchange is a one-way process, so choose carefully,” they told buyers.
Twenty-four hours before a 3 p.m. Wednesday deadline, 4,180 people had opted in to redeem their NFT for a physical work of art, of which 5,820 opted to keep their NFT, according to Heni, a technology company specializing in art market.
The alternate version is to be destroyed, the physical works of art – oil on paper – igniting daily from September 9.
Hirst’s project, titled The Currency, was an “interesting experiment”, the artist told Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, in a YouTube video interview last year. “It’s an installation, really, but like a global installation… Everyone’s involvement is part of The Currency project. It’s as much about the movement of objects as it is about objects.
NFTs have exploded into the global art market over the past couple of years, with major auction houses fetching astronomical sums for high-end works. In March 2021, Christie’s sold Everydays: the First 5,000 Days by digital artist known as Beeple for a record $69 million.
Hirst, 57, was one of the Young British Artists (YBA) – along with Tracey Emin, Gavin Turk and Sam Taylor-Johnson (formerly Sam Taylor-Wood) – who dominated the British art world in the 1990s , backed by advertising mogul Charles Saatchi.
He produced a series of works in which dead animals, some of which were dissected – including a shark, a sheep and a cow – were preserved in formaldehyde.
According to The Sunday Times Rich List 2020, Hirst had a property portfolio worth around £150million, including a Palladian mansion overlooking Regent’s Park and a 2,000-room art collection including works by Picasso and Francis Bacon.