Damien Hirst is famous for submerging a dead shark and a halved sheep in tanks of formaldehyde, but he says his new NFT project is by far his “most exciting”.
“The Currency”, as it is called, will offer 10,000 unique NFTs to collectors who must then choose to keep the token or an original work on paper, but they cannot have both.
With the deadline for choice looming tomorrowHirst announced that he would literally burn any physical artwork that was not collected in exchange for a token.
The destruction of the artworks will take place at an exhibition, also titled “The Currency”, at London’s Newport Street Gallery, starting September 9.
“The works of art will be burned at a specific time each day for the duration of the show. These times will be released in advance,” read a statement from the artist.
Later this fall, during Frieze week in October, the gallery will hold a closing event to burn the remaining artwork, with Hirst in attendance.
According to a running tally, the numbers are weighted in favor of NFTs with 5,713 tokens remaining and 4,219 having been exchanged for physical artwork.
Hirst made the physical artwork in 2016 using enamel paint on handmade paper. Each work is numbered, titled, stamped and signed by the artist on the back. Additional authenticity features include a watermark, microdot, and hologram containing a portrait of the artist. No color is repeated twice on an artwork.
The titles were generated through a machine learning program using some of the artist’s favorite song lyrics, including “Well my pit”, “Dream about down”, “Open the canyons” and “Love is born here”.
The art and technology company Heni Analytics produces a monthly report on the buying and selling of Hirst’s NFTs in the secondary market, the value of which has fallen sharply since the start of the project and as crypto prices plunge, according to the art diary.
The first report notes that between July 30 and August 31, 2021, there were 2,036 sales of “The Currency”, totaling $47.9 million. In comparison, last month only 170 sales took place, grossing a total of $1.4 million. On the other hand, the resale of physical books seems to be doing better. In January, one of the original paintings sold at Phillips London for £18,900 ($26,000).
Hirst is no stranger to making volatile, high-risk moves at the highest levels of the art market. After Hirst ordered a fisherman in Australia to catch and kill a 14ft shark, he immersed it in formaldehyde and sold it to Charles Saatchi on commission for £50,000.
In 2006, the work, titled The physical impossibility of death in the mind of a living personsold to hedge fund manager Steve Cohen for $8 million, although by then the shark had deteriorated enough to need replacing.
And in 2008, Hirst made headlines for his diamond-encrusted skull. For God’s sakewhich sold to a consortium of investors for the whopping sum of $100 million, but then raised eyebrows when it turned out that Hirst himself was a member of the consortium.
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