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Artist Damien Hirst just burned a thousand paintings of his, plans to burn 4000 more: 'That is art'

This controversial act is part of his project 'The Currency,' which consists of a collection of 10,000 nonfungible tokens.

Artist Damien Hirst just burned a thousand paintings of his, plans to burn 4000 more: 'That is art'
Cover Image Source: Damien Hirst takes part in the burning of his artworks at Newport Street Gallery on October 11, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

British artist Damien Hirst has begun burning thousands of his own paintings after asking buyers to choose between the physical artwork or the NFT representing it. This shocking act is part of his project "The Currency," which consists of a collection of 10,000 nonfungible tokens. According to BBC, collectors had to make a choice a year after buying a piece from the collection: take the painting and lose the NFT, or hold onto the NFT, in which case the corresponding physical piece would be destroyed. The buyers were almost evenly split in their decisions, with 5149 choosing to trade their NFT for the original painting and the remaining 4851 opting to hang on to the NFT. "I have no idea what the future holds, whether the NFTs or physicals are going to be more valuable or less," wrote Hirst, reported CNN. "But that is art! The fun part of the journey and maybe the point of the whole project."


Dressed in silver metallic boiler-suit trousers and matching fire safety gloves, Hirst burned the first 1000 of the nonexchanged paintings on Tuesday while live streaming the event. "Tomorrow I will be burning my 1,000 The Currency artworks which I kept as NFTs," the Turner Prize winner wrote on Instagram. "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, 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 NFT as soon as they are burnt and I will be live-streaming the full burn here on Instagram." The NFTs reportedly sold for $2,000 (£1,800) each.


According to The Guardian, each NFT in the collection corresponds to a physical painting featuring multicolored dots made on paper by hand in 2016 with enamel paint. They are all numbered, watermarked, hologrammed, micro-dotted, stamped, randomly titled from Hirs's favorite song lyrics, and signed on the back. The artist reportedly considers this series a way of allowing the public to participate by buying, exchanging, or selling his works. When asked how he felt to be burning the pieces, Hirst said: "It feels good, better than I expected."


Hirst's demonstration has been criticized by many, including Time Out's Eddy Frankel who wrote: "It's almost like Damien Hirst is so out of touch with the real world that he's basically transcended to another plane of existence, populated only by oligarchs and the once-edgy artists they collect. Still, look at it this way, even if you can't afford to turn on your heating at home, just go to Newport Street Gallery: it's free and it should be nice and toasty with all those £20,000 paintings on fire."


However, Laura Cumming—author and art critic—believes this seemingly provocative act is not an unusual move from the artist. "Damien Hirst made the market his medium and his message long ago," she said. "His latest stunt is absolutely self-contained in those terms. He was always brilliant at titles and this one is like the concentrated crack cocaine of epigrams. It is called 'The Currency' and that is what it is about, and what it is for — art as money, and the making of money with art."

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