Most painters wouldn’t dream of destroying their own masterpieces, but that’s exactly what British artist Damien Hirst is doing. It’s all part of an extravagant experiment.
“This one’s called ‘understanding everything,’ Hirst explained before tossing one of his famous “Spot” paintings into a fire at a London art gallery.
The 57-year-old artist’s unusual flame-filled exhibit, called “The Currency,” drew a crowd on Tuesday and plenty of questions about why he was doing this.
“I’m not burning my art, I’m transforming it,” he explained.
That’s because each burned painting has an NFT, a non-fungible token, digital copy that will live forever.
“I think this has to be part of the process to create truly digital artworks is to destroy the physical artwork,” says Hirst. “The two can’t exist at the same time.”
He gave collectors of his 10-thousand pieces of art a choice. They could either keep the NFT or take home the physical copy.
“NFTs are too new for me, whereas having something I can hold, I prefer that,” says Zaheer Raffeeq, one of the buyers.
More than half of the collectors, 5,149, chose to keep the physical artwork, while 4,851, including Kyle Johns, decided to keep the NFT, sending the paintings up in smoke.
“It’s such a unique idea to bring into the art world,” says Johns, a Wales-based art collector. ” It’s not destroying – it was cementing the fact that it’s only gonna be an NFT.”
But destroying or transforming, or whatever you want to call it, isn’t easy for the artist.
“The better the title – the harder it is to burn it – this one is called ‘all love,’” says Hirst – whose bizarre experiment was all meant to test the value of physical art versus digital. “Which is worth more? I still don’t know. And which is better? I still don’t know.”
But what is known is that collectors estimate the works being burned are worth about 11 million dollars.