Renowned South Korean contemporary artist Jung-soo Kim burnt his original work in an unprecedented initiative to transfer a lifelong legacy onto the blockchain via nonfungible tokens. 

Widely regarded as the contemporary artist most gifted at expressing Korean sentiments such as affection or nostalgia, Kim is famous for his unique collection of oil paintings that focus on azaleas — pink flowers of the heath family that have particular cultural significance in Korea, where it is referenced as a symbol of persistence and immutability in many songs or poems. 

“I probably have at most a few years left in me,” said Kim, who is 66 years old and was temporarily blinded many years ago after damaging his optic nerves while preparing for an exhibit in France. Although Kim regained his vision, he must now don sunglasses at all times to protect his already feeble eyesight. 

The fragility of his art career triggered Kim to seek alternative forms beyond the traditional canvas to present and preserve his work in a more lasting manner. Such efforts led him to collaborate with Samsung in 2019 as he expanded to media art by exhibiting a limited edition of digital azalea images on Samsung QLED TVs. 

Now, Kim is certain that NFTs offer the best means of preserving his art as blockchain technology presents the immutability he would like to imbue his legacy with. 

“It truly feels like blockchain is what I was waiting for,” commented Kim, adding, “This is the next frontier for art, and I will convert all my existing work as NFTs.”

Unlike most other NFT art projects, Kim’s initiative is taking a more drastic step in that Kim personally incinerated his work to mark the beginning of his transition to the blockchain. Kim burned a large azalea painting — one that is 63.78 inches by 51.18 inches in size and has a primary market value of roughly $100,000 — and is offering high-resolution pictures in a JPEG format of the now destroyed artwork in a limited edition sale on FTX’s NFT marketplace

The limited-edition sale will begin on Aug. 28 and finish on Sept. 3, followed by an auction of the one-of-one video of the burning of the original painting. Owners of the limited edition NFTs as well as the one-of-one video NFT will receive priority access to Kim’s future NFT collections, while the owner of the one-of-one video NFT will be invited to burn Kim’s next painting alongside Kim.