Damien Hirst is Currently Burning Thousands of His Paintings

Broadcasting live from his Newport Street Gallery.

Art
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British artist Damien Hirst is currently throwing thousands of works into fire pits at his Newport Street Gallery space in London, as the finale to his “Currency” exhibition.

The somewhat eyebrow-raising performance is taking place now as part of the show’s overarching concept. In detail, Hirst wanted to offer a commentary on the ownership of digital and physical artworks, and as such, launched Currency in July 2021. It encompassed a collection of 10,000 NFTs and 10,000 corresponding original artworks. These were handcrafted in 2016 from enamel paint on handmade paper, and have been numbered, titled, stamped, and signed by the artist on the back – with no color repeated twice. Each title, such as “Love Still Burns” has been generated through machine learning to some of the artist’s favorite song lyrics.

Upon purchase, collectors could either keep the NFT or exchange it for a physical piece. A year-long “exchange period” closed in late July, stipulating that those who opted to keep the physical piece would see their NFT destroyed, and vice versa. The results showed that just over half wanted to keep the physical piece, with the rest opting for the NFT. As promised, the first round of burning took place today at 12:30 BST, with Hirst and the team clad in safety-appropriate dungarees. The exhibition will remain open, and artworks will continue to be burned until October 30. Timings will be publicized in advance, but queues will be in 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, 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 said.

Elsewhere in art news, an arsonist has lit a fire on Easter Island partially damaging several of the sacred statues that famously stand there.

Newport Street Gallery
1 Newport Street
London SE11 6AJ

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