When he’s not keeping dead animals in formaldehyde or encasing skulls with diamonds, Damien Hirst is best known for his spots.
Ostensibly, it appears to be a more innocent relationship, clusters of rainbow dots that make the beholder feel happy, rather than irritating that a shark pickled or chopped down the middle cow and calf, for example, or a picture of the artist smiling next to a severed human head.
That was so Hearst He announced that his sites would become part of the NFT experience, The Currency, a project that was greeted with delight and admiration by some in the art world and admirers of his work – but a fair amount of skepticism and criticism too.
First, for those who have managed to avoid an explosion in the past two years, NFT is a non-fungible token, a unique digital asset. NFTs can be anything digital – music, videos, art even tweet.
In 2021, The Collins Dictionary made NFT its public wordCreated by digital artist Beeple, NFT sold for $69.3m (£50.3m at the time) through Christie’s – the first-ever sale by a major auction house of a piece of art not found in physical form.
For a short period of time, NFTs seemed like a surefire way for artists and investors to make money. After the initial boom, the market collapsed somewhat, but is this important for those who simply want to enjoy their digital arts? It is a concept that many find difficult to understand.
Enter the terrible Hirst in the industry, who in 2016 began work on a conceptual art project, creating 10,000 unique but visually similar A4 spot panels. In July 2021, he revealed that these would form the basis of The Currency, his first NFT group.
Potential buyers entered a sweepstakes for a piece for $2,000 (about £1,770 now, which is a bargain for an original Hearst). Those who succeeded were given a choice: keep the NFT and watch the physical board burn out, or replace it with the original, obliterating the digital copy.
They had a year to decide on them and the split was even tighter than another famous controversial vote that began in 2016: 5,149 buyers chose physical artwork, and 4,851 held NFTs.
It should be noted here that this number is slightly skewed, but by the fact that Hearst supported the new art form he was embracing, and kept the 1,000 pieces as NFT for himself. But nevertheless, there is great confidence in digital technology among the fans of the project as well.
Some made their decision quickly, others waited until the end. In September 2021, buyer No. 2604, titled Revocation, sold it for $172,239 (about £150,000 currently). This was the NFT version. According to Hearst’s book on the project, The Currency has so far generated $89m (£78.9m) in sales.
Pushing the limits or a publicity stunt?
The experience is now on display to the public at Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall, south London. Ten thousand artworks seems like a lot, but maybe only when you see the display in real life can you appreciate the scale of the project. (Sorry, NFT fans, the digital world doesn’t capture volume quite the same way.)
Each artwork is digitized, titled, stamped and signed by Hirst, with a watermark, small dot, hologram containing his image, and an AI-generated title using some of his favorite song lyrics. On each piece, no color is repeated.
All 10,000 paintings are represented in the gallery, hung in perspex. The 5,149 artworks whose owners have chosen physical work are undoubtedly undoubtedly, and the pieces now undoubtedly delight walls all over the world; The rest of the 4,851 are there tangibly, ready to ignite the multi-million pound fire, which is set to begin in October. Plate incinerators are waiting for them upstairs.
Hurst says he views currency as a work of art in which people participate by buying, holding, selling and exchanging pieces.
So, is his testing the value of digital art versus physical ingenious, an endeavor that crosses the line — or is it just another publicity stunt and a money-making ploy?
Art critic Florence Hallett, writing for i newspaper, describes The Currency as “like a little kid hanging over the toilet trying to gain the upper hand – only with much less honesty and massive sums of money”.
In a column titled “How Things Went Wrong With Damien Hirst,” The Sunday Times’s chief art critic Waldemar Janushak — who says he was a devoted admirer of the former artist’s work — describes NFT as something “invented by the devil to lure fools into the art world and convince them to spend their money.” for nothing “.
But for one of the art world’s greatest agitators, criticism certainly adds to the fun. And he has more than enough fans of his work.
“I don’t think appreciating art in person is better or worse.”
Molly Jane Zuckerman, chief content officer at crypto-data provider CoinMarketCap, entered the ballot for a portion of the coin, but it was unsuccessful. Despite her work in the cryptocurrency industry, she says she would have chosen the physical board because the NFT version would have looked like a “pale imitation” of the original Hearst.
However, she believes that it is all down to personal preference.
“Some of the NFT’s digital art is pretty cool. I own a few NFTs that I think are great. Most of them cost me less than $3 and I love looking at them…
“But I like to appreciate my art in person. And I don’t think that appreciating art in person is necessarily better or worse or makes art healthier, if you can touch it, it’s drawn, versus creating it online. I just think everyone has different ways that aesthetics please .
“I would hang Damien Hirst in my house and would feel less aesthetically pleasing by seeing it on my iPhone or as my profile picture. But people like different things and I can’t fault them for wanting a, you know, $2 million monkey photo In their profile picture. That’s entirely their right.”
“I don’t know if it was true or false, but he was a skater”
Dubbed Roy’s People, artist Roy Tyson is best known for his work with miniature figurines, often using the themes of other creators—including Banksy, Keith Haring, and Hirst—as his backgrounds.
In 2021, he became the owner of The Currency’s 4,967 lot titled What Am I To Know, and earlier this year made the decision to keep the physical board and destroy NFT.
“I’m a huge fan of Hearst and love the way he pushes boundaries and doesn’t answer to anyone, kind of doesn’t abide by any old rules in the art world,” Tyson says. “My original thinking when this came out was, ‘Wow, Damien Hirst is praying for £1,500. This is unheard of, no brainer. “
But seeing some NFT issues selling for sky-high amounts early on made him temporarily re-evaluate them.
“You begin to think, What could be of value? It was such a journey… In the end I decided to go with my original thinking. I don’t know if it was the right or wrong thing, but it was somewhat of a serpentine.”
Tyson has only created physical artwork himself, but he says the same rules apply when it comes to buying digital art.
“By collecting artwork with the intention of investing rather than collecting artwork for the sake of art, you must know what you are buying.
“It feels like maybe it’s the art of the future and the way people can collect it. Look at money, you know, money has disappeared. Digital currency, basically, we just see numbers on our screens. But I don’t think physical art will ever disappear.” .
Which would be more valuable?
Of course, the destruction of art is nothing new. In the case of Love Is In The Bin – the artwork that tore itself apart after being sold in 2018 – it only added to its value, Sold again for £18.5m in October 2021an artist record at auction.
Hurst himself claims he had trouble deciding what to do with his own thousand pieces of the collection, saying that he “spread all over the f****** shop with my decision, trying to decide what I should do”.
Writing on Twitter in July, he said, “I believe in art and art in all its forms but in the end thought it was cool! This area is so exciting and the least I know” about and I love this NFT community this blows my mind. “
While she doesn’t necessarily consider NFTs exactly the future of art, Zuckerman believes that Hearst’s project is an interesting exploration of what consumers consider valuable.
“Artists experiment,” she says. “I think a lot of [Hirst] He does points and with him [physical] Artwork, you know, 100, 200 years ago was not considered art either. And now, once people have moved beyond just thinking about realism, oil paintings, you know, biblical paintings, art.
“I’m all for artists experimenting with as many shapes as possible. I think there are really cool things that NFT can do and can bring. NFTs can change over time, and they can evolve. They can be 3D rotating shapes, and it’s something that can change over time, and they can evolve. A pencil does it, a paintbrush can’t physically do that. So I don’t think there is any reason why artists shouldn’t use NFT.”
However, she adds, NFTs are no longer a particular fast track to making money.
“If you’re buying an NFT for a specific reason – you want to be part of an exclusive club, for example. The Bored Ape Yacht club, the people who own the NFTs, they get the benefits of being in that community; there’s the events, there are the encounters, there’s leverage associated with them on Social media and sometimes in real life too.It makes sense to have an NFT.
“If you want to support an artist, surely buying their art in any way supports that particular artist. If you want to make a quick buck, that is not the case anymore. And publicity in terms of flipping NFTs to make a significant impact, don’t It can still be done for sure but it’s not [case of] He took a candy from a kid she had about a year ago.”
Six months, five years, a century: Which of the Currency would be more valuable?
Hearst says he’s “proud to have created something alive, something provocative” — and that excitement is in the unknown.
“I have no idea what the future holds, whether NFTs or physical items will be more or less valuable. But that’s the art! The fun and part of the journey and maybe the goal of the whole project. Even after one year, I feel like the journey is just beginning.”
The Coin Gallery is now open at the Newport Street Gallery, running until October 30, 2022