The United Kingdom’s reportedly richest living artist, Damien Hirst is set to burn thousands of his paintings as part of a year-long nonfungible token (NFT) project called The Currency.
Starting in September, visitors to Hirst’s private London museum will be able to view some of his 10,000 oil paintings depicting unique dots he created in 2016 and linked to NFTs in 2021.
Buyers of the $2,000 floor-priced NFTs were given the option to keep the token or trade it for the physical painting. The original artwork will be burned for those who choose to keep the NFT version.
The deadline for the decision was Wednesday, with nearly half of the collectors, 4,851 wanting their paintings burned for digital edition NFTs, while 5,149 collectors opted to trade their NFTs for physical versions.
The art will be torched daily during the run of the event beginning on Sept. 9, culminating in its closure during the London Frieze Week event in mid-October, when the remaining paintings will go up in smoke. Commenting on the outcome on Wednesday, the 57-year-old artist said:
“I believe in art and art in all its forms but in the end I thought f**k it! this zone is so f**king exciting and the one I know least about and I love this NFT community it blows my mind.”
Hirst previously told The Art Newspaper that the project “touches on the idea of art as a currency and a store of wealth.”
The initial sale and subsequent secondhand resales have been handled by NFT marketplace Heni. According to Heni, sales surged in August and September 2021 when the project launched. The Currency became the top collection in OpenSea NFT rankings on August 15. However, volumes have slumped in recent months with the broader crypto market crash.
The maximum price for a piece was $176,779, with the average buyer spending $21,078. The most recent sale was on July 28 for $8,708 USD Coin (USDC), bringing the total sold for the collection to $89.3 million.
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Hirst commented that “I still don’t know what I’m doing, and I have no idea what the future holds, whether the NFTs or physicals are going to be more valuable or less,” adding that even after one year, he felt “the journey was just beginning.”
Damien Hirst was declared the U.K.’s richest artist in 2020, with a net worth of more than $380 million.