Damien Hirst is setting fire to almost £10 million worth of his own artwork after selling non-fungible token (NFT) versions of the pieces. The notorious artist revealed that the process of burning his physical art “feels good, better than I expected.”
Hirst rose to fame during the 1990s Britart scene, winning the prestigious Turner Prize in 1995. Over the years critics have lambasted his most controversial pieces, like a dead shark floating in formaldehyde and bisected cattle, which consequently sold for millions.
Last year, Hirst ventured into the booming world of NFTs by launching his own collection called ‘The Currency’. Buyers who bought any of the 10,000 collection pieces needed to choose between either keeping the physical artwork or the NFT representing it; 5,149 buyers opted for the original artworks while 4,851 chose the NFTs.
“A lot of people think I’m burning millions of dollars of art but I’m not,” Hirst explained. “I’m completing the transformation of these physical artworks into NFTs by burning the physical versions. 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.“
Dressed in silver metallic boiler-suit trousers, Hirst is destroying the works in six sculptural wood-burning fireplaces in front of a virtual audience and invited guests at his Newport Street Gallery in London. The physical artworks were created in 2016 using enamel paint on handmade paper and feature his trademark polka dots. Each painting was numbered, titled, stamped, and signed to keep track of the pieces that have been burnt.
Unsurprisingly, Hirst’s provocatively wasteful stunt has divided critics during a time when the cost of living crisis is dominating headlines. Writing for Time Out, editor Eddy Frankel commented “it’s almost like Damien Hirst is so out of touch with the real world that he’s basically transcended to another plane of existence, populated only by oligarchs and the once-edgy artists they collect.” Another anonymous critic believes the fanfare surrounding Hirst’s expensive act is “almost as boring as his terrible work.”
This final burning phase of Hirst’s NFT project will take place every day at Newport Street Gallery until the show closes on 30 October 2022.