The white tents pitched in Regent’s Park and the artsy crowd descended on London to burn some cash at Frieze. And if collectors followed their noses today, they might have found themselves at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery, south of the Thames, to see the provocative artist toss into the flames works of art worth potential of millions of dollars.
It was the grand finale of “Currency”, Damien Hirst’s first NFT project, where he invited collectors to bet $2,000 on the value of his art by choosing either a digital token or a physical work on paper.
“What a weird day!” the former YBA said as he strutted into the gallery, wearing a set of silver flame-retardant pants. A professional, he quickly began directing his studio assistants on the most efficient way to throw his works into five ovens scattered around the room – after, of course, first presenting each work to the many cameras capturing the event.
” Come in ! Hirst said, to applause from the audience, launching the first work, titled will totally sell you, at the stake. “Bye! – there was another one.
In case you’re wondering why Hirst burns his art, let’s go back to the simple premise of the project. Last July, the artist dropped off a collection of 10,000 NFTs, priced at $2,000 each; each corresponded to an actual work on paper. Hirst gave collectors a one-year window to enjoy their NFTs (or trade them in the Wild West, i.e., NFT market) and when the trading window closes, anyone who remained in possession of an NFT had to make a choice: keep the digital token. , or exchange it for physical labour. The twist? Any item that the owner did not choose would be burned.
The final results came in July and, unsurprisingly, as we entered a crypto winter with NFT transaction volume down 97% since January’s record, physical art has won. A standard 51.5%, or 5,149 “currency holders” chose to exchange their NFTs for physical works. This left 4,851 NFT holders, and therefore 4,851 physical works to be consumed by flames (although it should be noted that the NFTs would have lost harder if Hirst hadn’t had a big thumbs up on the scales, as 1,000 of these NFTs belonged to him).
The 10,000 physical works were displayed at the gallery, stacked in transparent slide towers, for collectors to collect their paintings. Once collected, these works are replaced by black and white translucent slides. The others came out one by one and upstairs in the boiler room.
“IIt’s kind of crazy to burn art, but I think it’s more of a transformation, because it’s the completion of the transformation from proper artwork to NFT,” Hirst told a selected press room and 200 guests, many of whom were there. to watch their potential physical labor burn.
“It’s kind of like the reverse of the signature,” the artist joked as he sent paper into the flames, prompting a chuckle from those in attendance who had heard of Hirst’s studio operation.
If you’re wondering who made the best call in the situation, let’s look at the stats. Resale prices for Hirst’s NFT hovered around $6,354 last week, although the all-time average price was $20,742. Meanwhile, the highest price achieved at auction for any of the physical works was $30,642 (at Sotheby’s in June), although most recently one sold for $13,723 at Bonhams.
Among those in the room was art collector Tony Simmonds, who confessed that he joined the project in order to gain access to an original work by Damien Hirst. “So why I’m here watching it burn, I’m not sure! he’s laughing.
Luke Davies, another art collector active in the urban contemporary scene, provided some useful background that might help answer this question. “A lot of what’s not really talked about is that the NFT isn’t just a jpeg,” he said, explaining that those who kept their NFT were rewarded with some serious perks. . These include access to Hirst via a studio visit.
Meanwhile HENI, the international art services company with which Hirst collaborated on the project, also showered them with gifts, such as a second free Hirst NFT, and merchandise, such as a Hirst umbrella for Christmas. And a whole community of collectors has gathered on Discord around the artist. “I see the NFT more as an access card to the Damien Hirst club,” Davies said.
But the most informative nugget was the revelation that collectors who kept their NFTs were endowed with an original work on paper anyway and are now holders of a Hirst spin painting. So in the end it looks like there was a good answer to the test.
Some of the collectors present were less excited about the show than they had anticipated, such as Shaun Davin, collector and longtime fan of Damien Hirst, who attended some of his most spectacular events, such as his Sotheby’s auction in 2008 Beautiful in my head forever and its fake Venetian shipwreck Treasures from the Wreck of the Incredible.
Davin had been one of the original currency holders but opted to trade on his NFT during the trading window, although he told Artnet News he was seriously considering buying back into the club.
Coming out of the gallery, sweating — these stoves are hot! – I had to laugh. Was it moving that the richest artist in the country is here burning art when we are in the midst of an energy crisis and much of the UK cannot afford to to turn on your heating this winter? Maybe.
When asked what it was about, Hirst threw the question back to his audience. “I say, what is it? That’s what I’m asking you,” Hirst said. “It’s about finding out what happens next.”
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