For his umpteenth variation of spot paintings, British artist Damien Hirst, who loves colored dots as much as dollars, is entering a new phase in his experiment of mixing paper and NFT works. Faced with a tough choice, buyers of the “The Currency Project” collection had until July 27 to choose which format to keep. The affair was closed neck and neck and will give rise to a spectacular wave of physical works being abandoned in favor of their digital version.
NFT or physical works? buyers have decided:
British visual artist Damien Hirst’s unprecedented experiment is entering its final phase. Like a memory “The Currency Project” launched a year ago, combines a corpus of 10,000 paperworks and as many non-fungible tokens (NFT), a gesture well suited to the era of ‘crypto art’. But the particularity of the initiative is due to the fact that at the end of a year of detention, collectors had to make a choice: either keep their NFT which was initially obtained for 2000 dollars, or exchange it for the associated paperwork. The principle is that if the NFT has not been delivered against considerable pressure, the physical work has been doomed to the stake. Otherwise, the non-fungible token will be destroyed.
Since July 27, 2022 is the deadline, we finally know buyer preferences. And the least we can say is that NFTs are now firmly entrenched in the field of contemporary art. We already knew that.
Experiment à la Hirst confirms it with just under half of buyers, ie 4,851 “The Currency” enthusiasts opt for the NFT version, compared to 5,149 collectors who choose to trade in their NFTs for physical works.
The “Currency Project” in numbers
Initial sales and resale were handled through the Heni Marketplace. Hailed since its launch, “The Currency Project” has experienced a slowdown in recent months, as has the crypto market.
So, according to the platform’s monthly report, which analyzes the exchange of NFTs in the secondary market, 2036 sales were closed between July 30 and August 31, 2021 for an amount of $47.9 million. In comparison, just 170 sales were observed last June for a total of $1.4 million.
More generally, the maximum price for an NFT in the collection reached nearly $177,000, with buyers shelling out an average of $21,000 in Ether, USDC or Dai to acquire one of the valuable digital tokens. According to the Heni website, total collection sales today stand at $89.3 million. Undoubtedly a bit of disappointing results for the visual artist, according to The Guardian “the UK’s richest artist” with a fortune estimated at £315 million in 2020, citing his taste for money and also claiming a businessman’s cap.
An organized auto-da-fe
From September 9, the most provocative phase of the project will begin with a book that burns in the form of a conclusion. Indeed, all works on display at the Newport Street Gallery in London, owned by the artist, corresponding to the NFT held by collectors, will go up in smoke. A daily eruption until the closing event during the Friezeweek in October for an incendiary finale.
Hirst describes the project as “by far the most exciting” of his career and explores a question that has plagued him since the beginning, namely the relationship between art and money.. An NFT is by nature more easily tradable and transferable than a physical object, it is likely to become a vector of radical upheaval in the trade relationship with art. But not alone. By forcing buyers of his works to choose between two versions, he forces them to question their own perception of art. The public’s nearly 50/50 choice testifies that physical painting and digital avatar are now almost equal, at least in the very hype from superstar Hirst. However, it can be interpreted as a further indication of a changing contemporary art world.