The art world and the NFT space have been closely entangled for a few years now, with many artists making a living selling their works as NFTs. From the well-established ones to newbies, artists around the world have created NFTs, whether representing physical artwork or as the art itself.
But now, renowned artist Damien Hirst is taking this to a new level by having his fans choose between physical art and NFTs. As part of an ongoing project called ‘The Currency’, Hirst will be burning thousands of his own previous artwork pieces.
Back in 2016, Hirst released a collection of 10,000 NFTs for sale, with each of these NFTs representing a corresponding oil painting. Now, Hirst will be burning many of the physical paintings unless they are claimed by their owners. Those who bought the NFTs have been given the option to trade them in for their physical counterpart or keep them.
This will all begin on September 9, 2022, and will see paintings being burned at Hirst’s private museum, the Newport Street Gallery, for a week straight. At the Frieze Week in October 2022, all the remaining paintings will also be burned.
According to a recent CNN report, 4,751 buyers had made the choice to retrieve the physical artwork while others chose to keep the NFTs. For the latter, their corresponding artworks will be part of those that will be burned by the artist.
As for the reason why Hirst is burning these works in the first place, ‘The Currency’ has been publicized as some sort of subversive performance art. As many of us know, digital assets are burned all the time to retrieve physical goods but rarely the other way around. In that way, Hirst is subverting expectations while also making commentary on the financial system.
“This project explores the boundaries of art and currency — when art changes and becomes a currency, and when currency becomes art. It’s not a coincidence that governments use art on coins and notes. They do this to help us believe in money. Without art, it’s hard for us to believe in anything,” Hirst says, adding that his project touches on the idea of art as a currency and a store of wealth.
More details will be released as the dates for the art burnings draw near.
NFTs and Social Commentary
Art has always been used as a source of social commentary and as NFTs are being used more in art, they too are becoming a form of social commentary. Hirst’s ‘The Currency’ project is perhaps one of the most interesting uses of NFTs in art in recent times, especially given its take on the concept of ‘burning’.
It might go on to spark a trend and art buyers might find themselves having to choose between an NFT or a physical artwork. Either way, NFTs’ presence in the art world seems to be on steady ground from both a financial and creative standpoint.