It was announced by British artist Damien Hirst and is now performing it. The business buyer of his last “coin” project can choose the physical copy or burn it and keep the digital copy only in NFT format. Thousands of buyers chose the latter and Hearst began the cremation process at his London gallery on Tuesday. It will continue to do so until the end of October.
It seems that a new trend in the art world is going on: setting fire to original works in order to sell their NFTs. NFT stands for “non-replaceable token”, which is a non-fungible or non-replaceable attribute. It is a digital proof of ownership of all kinds of photos, videos, artwork and collectibles, which are recorded in the blockchain, the digital record of crypto transactions.
Back in March, Injective Protocol set ablaze Banksy’s original work “Morons (White)” before it was sold as NFT. The company bought the 2006 print Morons—which Banksy intended as art market criticism—for $80,000 from a New York art gallery and sold for $320,000 the day after it was burned.
At the end of July this year, Mexican-American businessman Martin Mubarak hosted a festive event in Miami A drawing of Frida Kahlo’s diary is estimated to burn $10 million and sell it as NFT. It concerns the work of Fantasmos Siniestros (Evil Ghosts), a two-sided drawing from Kahlo’s diary that the Mexican artist kept from 1944 until her death in 1954.
And now there’s Damien Hirst, one of the richest and most controversial artists on the planet, with his ‘Currency’ project. This time it is the artist himself who is lighting his work and selling it as NFT. Buyers of 10,000 Creatives from 2016—all panels with colored dots, but all also different from each other—were allowed to choose between physical artwork or exchange it with NFT from it. If the choice falls on NFT, Hearst will burn the original. According to the Newport Street Gallery, 5,149 people chose the physical artwork, but the other 4,851 people went to NFT, thus developing the original.
Damien Hirst kept his word and began work on Tuesday at his London gallery, displaying several hundred works, all numbered, labeled, stamped and signed. “It feels good, better than I could have imagined,” he replied. He announced on Instagram: “A lot of people think I’m burning multimillion-dollar art, but I’m not. I complete converting these physical artworks to NFTs by burning physical copies. The value of the art, digital or physical, which is hard to quantify at best will not be lost. They will be handed over to the NFT as soon as they are burned.”
Many see such stunts as a way to make a quick profit. The collective value of Damien Hirst’s burnt works is estimated at more than 11.5 million euros. Hearst also receives a lot of criticism because now, during a (energy) crisis, he will burn his valuable works.
According to Eddie Frankel of Time Out, this shows that Damien Hirst has “little contact with the real world”. “But, look at it this way: if you can’t turn the heating on in the house, go to Newport Street Gallery. It’s free and it should be nice and cozy with all those £20,000 paintings.”
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