Pulling a stunt or making a statement? Artist Damien Hirst has given his buyers the choice to purchase his art, The Currency, as an NFT or a physical artwork – but with a shocking consequence.
You should all by now know Damien Hirst, enfant terrible of the British – and global – contemporary art scene, whose shark, first shown at London’s Saatchi Gallery in the early 1990s, remains the single most striking artwork unveiled to the public since Marcel Duchamp’s The Fountain urinal in 1918. And still resonates 30 years later, in its “death and Zen” three-in-one seduction; be it the striking sight of a real-life monster of the seas in a tank in a gallery, the semi-noxious sniff of formaldehyde in which it was serenely suspended, or the inspired, literary title The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which resonated like a leftover Morrissey and Johnny Marr of The Smiths demo. Since that time, Hirst has paraded a veritable cassoulet of sliced and diced cows, pigs, goats, insects, birds and sheep, along with big splashy playful repetitious spot paintings (think Twister for Onepercenters), decorative butterflies, Pharmacy restaurant (twice), his own Newport Street Gallery, and wresting control of his work from white-wall gallery spaces and owners and auction houses. To borrow a Britishism, Hirst is “the dog’s bollocks”.
And now Hirst’s back – has he ever been away? – with The Currency, his first NFT collection, comprising 10,000 spot paintings at small size. The show highlights the boundaries of art and currency – when art changes and becomes a currency, and when currency becomes art. Hirst first announced the paintings last year, and put them up for digital sale at £2,000 a pop. He also gave the buyers the choice of owning the physical work or the NFT. Of the 10,000 he sold, 5,149 kept the hard copy artwork and 4,851 the NFT. And it’s the latter he will burn at Frieze London this month, after showing a selection of the works in his gallery from late September. Buy, sell, burn, punters.
(Header image: Damien Hirst with The Currency artworks, 2021. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2022.)