The British artist Damien Hirst is one of many big names in the art world who have set fire to their work. On Tuesday, October 12th, he burned 1,000 of his pieces. He live-streamed the event on Instagram and plans to burn thousands of more works of art.
It’s part of his “The Currency” project. It is made up of a group of 10,000 NFTs. Each non-transferable token is a painting with his signature multicolored dots made with enamel paint on handmade paper. The pieces were first sold for $2,000. This price is low compared to what Hirst’s work has been known to sell for in the past.
“A lot of people think I’m burning millions of dollars of art but I’m not, I’m completing the transformation of these physical artworks into NFTs by burning the physical versions,” Hirst wrote in an Instagram caption. “the value of art digital or physical which is hard to define at the best of times will not be lost it will be transferred to the NFTs as soon as they are burnt.”
Collectors had to decide what to do a year after they bought a piece from “The Currency.” They could take the painting, which would mean losing the NFT, or they could keep the NFT, which would mean the painting would be burned.
“‘The Currency’ pitted Hirst’s foray into the new world of digital art against his old-school practice, asking the art market to decide which was more valuable,” wrote Artnet News’ Caroline Goldstein.
About half of the buyers chose to trade their NFT for the original painting, and the other half chose to keep their NFT. The pieces are on display at London’s Newport Street Gallery and will be burned during the Frieze London art fair, which runs from October 12 to 16.
The Drill of Fire with Art
An NFT is a digital identifier that proves that a physical or digital object is real and belongs to its owner. It’s like a receipt, and the fact that it’s unique makes it valuable.
In 2018, filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn told NPR that art is traded like an asset and is seen as a financial instrument. NFTs are a new type of asset that can be traded like other assets. Because they take a lot of energy to make, they are also known for being bad for the environment.
There were a lot of negative comments on Hirst’s Instagram post about the burning. “Either way it’s all about the money,” wrote one user. “Interesting strategy of maxing the carbon footprint for this collection,” wrote another.