Artist Damien Hirst burned 1,000 of his paintings on Instagram Live. He will soon destroy thousands more.

January 23, 2024 0 By JohnValbyNation

Artist Damien Hirst burned 1,000 of his paintings on Tuesday, livestreaming the event on Instagram. The pieces were part of a collection called “The Currency,” in which Hirst let buyers choose between owning a physical work or a digital NFT in its place.

“A lot of people think I’m burning millions of dollars of art but I’m not, I’m completing the transformation of these physical artworks into nfts by burning the physical versions,” Hirst wrote on Instagram. 

“The value of art digital or physical which is hard to define at the best of times will not be lost it will be transferred to the nft as soon as they are burnt…” he added.

The 10,000-piece collection, which began with the creation of the physical artworks in 2016, “explores the boundaries of art and currency—when art changes and becomes a currency, and when currency becomes art,” according to NFT marketplace OpenSea, where the collection was sold.

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The paintings in “The Currency” were done in Hirst’s signature artistic style, and had an initial price point of $2,000 each, according to NPR. This is in stark contrast to the purchase prices of his other works, the most expensive of which sold for over $19.2 million in 2007, according to Heritage Auctions.

Buyers were given one year to decide whether they preferred to keep the physical work or its NFT equivalent. They were nearly evenly split: 4,851 of the 10,000 paintings in the collection will be burned, OpenSea reported.

NFTs — or non-fungible tokens — have grown in popularity in recent years. They are proof of ownership of digital works, such as videos or visual art, and provide authenticity through a one-of-a-kind piece of code, which is stored and protected on a shared public exchange.

The remaining pieces in “The Currency” are being shown at the Newport Street Gallery in London. They will continue to be burned until the exhibit ends on Oct. 30, the gallery said.

Hirst is a British painter, sculptor, and philanthropist. He helped form the Young British Artist movement, and is one of the wealthiest living artists.

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