Why would Damien Hirst burn more than 4,000 of his paintings?


Damien Hirst with works from The Currency (2016).  Artwork © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd, DACS 2021. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

Damien Hirst with works from The Currency (2016). Artwork © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd, DACS 2021. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

4,851: This is the number of paintings Damien Hirst has signed that he will burn at the start of the school year. A surprising initiative, which is less important when you know the character behind it. For if the Briton, revealed in the 1990s among the group of Young British Artists, has since become a central figure in contemporary art, it is in particular thanks to his works that regularly make headlines: A Cut Off Head of a Cow Surrounded by Flies (1990) ), the carcass of a shark dipped in formaldehyde (1991), or even a human skull covered in diamonds (2007) … always highly publicized, sometimes controversial, and in recent years the artist appears to have returned to a more classic practice and less studio glamor , like his huge series of paintings representing cherry blossoms, shown at Fondation Cartier in 2021, presumably.

But at the same time, the artist started his first project of documented digital works using NFT technology. – for “Irreplaceable icons(non-replaceable tokens) – whose process encodes a signature in a digital file that attests to its uniqueness. baptized the currencyThis new series led him to reject several thousand spot paintings, his famous work of splashes of color that the artist has been making since the 1990s, to convert them to NFT thanks to an algorithm that associates every drop and texture of paint with pixels. But the whole uniqueness of the project lies in its commercialization: Instead of offering the physical work and its NFT copy for sale in the same lot, the artist forced potential buyers to choose which of the two they wanted to keep, and put them to the challenge to decide which version prevailed over the other, which would then be permanently destroyed.

Since 2021 sale of unpublished works produced by the currency, Damien Hirst gave collectors until July 27 to choose. Unlike other artists of his caliber such as Takashi Murakami, who rejected many of his works in NFT while keeping their physical copy, the 57-year-old Briton took advantage of this new process to separate the two, thus allowing each painting to exist both in the physical world and in the virtual world . Race Result: Out of 10,000 buyers, 5149 decided to set aside digital work – and therefore will be permanently erased – for an A4 sheet drawn by Damien Hirst, while 4851 preferred to keep the NFT version.. and let that happen. Many physical works literally rise in smoke. These images will be on display from September 9 at the Newport Street Gallery in London, where the artist will systematically stage this stunning spontaneous display. Every day, for four months, he would come to the gallery at a fixed time to burn several of his paintings to paper, until there was only one left when the gallery closed on January 1, 2023.

On social networks, Damien Hirst has clearly formulated the main purpose of this approach, which is baffling to say the least: Assigning buyers an unprecedented responsibility to consider for themselves a possible paradigm shift in the art world. What if all the NFTs were destroyed because everyone chose to keep their paper copy? Back to square one ? ”, wondered the artist in the presentation video of the project that I published last year on the Heni platform, with which the artist was involved in this project. With the support of the artist’s bad planetary fame, the currency It allows us to question the changing relationships between art, money, and the value of work, but also the recent turning point that this new digital market, or even cryptocurrency, has brought about. The numbers now prove it: put up for sale at £7,500 in 2021, physical versions of spot paintings Now worth more than twice the price of its digital counterpart…but the selection of 4,851 buyers who preferred their digital version attests to an art market in constant renewal, with NFTs recently earning a spot in the selection — starting with an auction of a digital work by artist Beeple by Christie’s in March 2021. , which made history by reaching an impressive amount of $69 million. Damien Hirst himself emphasizes this potential threat to competition between the digital and physical arts, confident that he also fears having to burn his work. Before concluding on his Twitter account: “I believe in art in all its forms, but in the end I said to myself: What the hell is this!

In the interview given by the British artist to thing numberAnd the Director of the Design Museum in London, Tim Marlowe, emphasized that “The contrasts between Hearst’s work and his reputation: his desire to give minimal emotional impact, his rejection of rules and his obsessive relationship with the art market.The simplicity of these thousands of A4 sheets smeared with colorful specks in the face of emotion – even indignation – caused by their systematic destruction, even refusing to align themselves with the NFT projects of artists of his stature by enacting his own rules, while changing icons, from the most secular to the newest, in The art market … The main issues that have dominated the interdisciplinary practice of the British artist for decades are undoubtedly well collected here.

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