Physical art or NFT? Damien Hirst set to burn thousands of his paintings

Key Takeaways:

  • Artist Damien Hirst will burn 4851 artworks from 'The Currency' collection
  • Out of the 10,000 holders of his NFTs, 5,149 have opted for the physical art pieces instead
  • The burning event will begin on September 9 and will run through October
Artist Damien Hirst will burn thousands of his paintings from "The Currency" NFT project. 4851 collectors opted for his digital art instead
Artist Damien Hirst will burn thousands of his paintings from “The Currency” collection. Picture: Gazanfarulla Khan via Flickr

YEREVAN ( — Artist Damien Hirst will burn thousands of paintings at his London gallery in September and October. The artworks are a part of his much-talked-about “The Currency” NFT project.

According to HENI, in the nonfungible token (NFT) marketplace that handled the initial sale, as many as 4,851 artworks will go up in flames. 

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Hirst is one of Britain’s best-known artists. In 2020, the Sunday Times annual “Rich List” placed him as UK’s richest artist. His net worth back then was $384 million. 

It is no surprise that his venture into the NFT space received the international limelight. But why is Heist burning so many artworks? Let’s understand what led to this decision. 

‘The Currency’ NFT project by Damien Hirst

Back in 2016, Hirst created 10,000 unique dot paintings. Each painting received a distinctive title and a number. These were then linked to corresponding NFTs in 2021, making two copies available of each piece, one in physical form and the other as a nonfungible token.  

Recommended: Don’t buy nonfungible tokens (NFT) you can’t afford — artist Daniel Maltzman

Hemi, an NFT marketplace, has been coordinating the collection. It has launched them on the Palm blockchain. Its machine learning algorithm also ranked the pieces based on color combination, overlapping dots, density, profanity in titles, etc. 

Each NFT sold for $2,000. Buyers had one year to decide whether to keep the physical copy or the NFT version.

“The collector cannot keep both. This exchange is a one-way process, so choose carefully,” 

the project declared. 

All the 10,000 pieces sold out in no time.

The wait is over. Time to Burn 

The one-year waiting time is over. Finally, after much speculation, the final decision of the collectors is revealed. Over 50% of holders have opted to keep their physical art pieces. 

“Today at 3pm BST, the exchange period for The Currency closed. The choices made by The Currency holders are final & cannot be changed. The final numbers are: 5,149 physical and 4,851 NFTs,” 

NFT marketplace HENI announced
Damien Hirst to burn his paintings, Physical art or NFT? Damien Hirst set to burn thousands of his paintings
Damien Heart will set over 4800 art pieces aflame. Credit: HEMI

Starting September 9, visitors to Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery can view 10,000 oil paintings on paper before the artist burns them.

Hirst will burn the paintings daily for over one month. Then, in October, at the closing event of the iconic Frieze Week, he will destroy the remaining paintings. 

The decision of the collectors also shed light on the ongoing NFT vs. physical art debate. Since the industry boomed, some people have claimed NFTs will kill traditional art

However, if we look at Hirst’s collection as an example, more people have opted to keep the physical art than the NFT. This perhaps debunks the argument that traditional art is going away. 

Meanwhile, it is still unclear which one will be more valuable from “The Currency” collection

“I have no idea what the future holds, whether the NFTs or physicals are going to be more valuable or less. But that is art! The fun, part of the journey and maybe the point of the whole project. Even after one year, I feel the journey is just beginning,” 

Damien Hirst said.

Meanwhile, with all the talk about physical art pieces, one should not forget about the NFTs. HENI will burn the NFTs, albeit only those whose owners have opted for the physical piece. 

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