Damien hirst burns the currency


The fate of the artwork was in the buyer’s hands when Damien Hirst decided he would burn the physical copies of his uniquely made artwork The Currency, priced at 2,000 USD each, if people bought its NFT counterpart. Collectors could not own both the NFT and physical artwork, so they had to choose one under a deadline (more on that here). True to his word, Hirst destroyed the first 1,000 physical artworks of The Currency at Newport Street Gallery on October 12th, tossing the dollars NFT aficionados digitally handed the artist into the fire (at least it was a state-of-the-art-looking fireplace). Buyers and onlookers flocked inside the white tent, basking in the scent of smoke and anticipation, and happily eyed the modest grin on Hirst’s face as his fire-resistant gloved hand made its way into the pyre to fling or gently lay down a piece of his dots-covered paper that was worth bucks into the flames.


In his Instagram post before the event, the artist reiterated that he was not burning millions of dollars of his public art, contrary to what he believed the majority of people thought. ‘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 writes. Hirst will keep burning his own artworks and the remaining physical copies on a daily basis until the show closes on October 30th, 2022. The gallery states that the visitors are invited to come to see the exhibition and physical artworks being burnt which will take place between 12:30 and 1:30pm BST every Tuesday through Sunday until October 28th.

damien hirst the currency nft
images courtesy of HENI, via Twitter (unless stated)



The currency is a collection of 10,000 handmade artworks


As a recap, The Currency, launched in July 2021 in collaboration with tech company HENI, is a collection of 10,000 NFTs that correspond with 10,000 original artworks by Damien Hirst. The physical artworks were all handmade which Hirst started creating in 2016 using enamel paint. Each artwork is numbered, titled, stamped, and signed by the artist on the back with authenticity features on the artwork paper such as a watermark, a microdot, and a hologram containing a portrait of the artist. No color is repeated twice as Hirst manually worked on each piece, and each artwork’s title was generated through machine learning that embedded some of the artist’s favorite song lyrics onto the paper.


The Hirst collectors had the power to choose between keeping their NFT or exchanging it for the physical artwork. The exchange period closed on July 27th, 2022 with a tally of 5,149 buyers deciding to keep the physical artwork, and 4,851 the NFT. Newport Street Gallery states that if the buyers did not exchange their NFT during that period, the physical artwork will be destroyed while if they chose to exchange it during that period, the NFT will be destroyed.

damien hirst the currency nft
Damien Hirst destroys 1,000 physical artworks of ‘The Currency’ in front of NFT buyers



Internet citizens comment on the burning


Damien Hirst says that The Currency is the most exciting project he has ever worked on so far. The artist has long flirted with the concepts of ownership and collecting, and The Currency marked his entrance into the world of NFT. The series explores the boundaries of art and currency: when art changes and becomes a currency, and when currency becomes art. In hopes of making the buying process more exciting, the artist included a sense of rarity to ownership as no artwork was the same. In fact, 1.22% of the works from the series have profanity in their title, which translates to just 122 works.


On his Instagram, commenters have expressed their thoughts on the so-called ‘Burn Event.’ One commented that Hirst is missing the point of NFTs and digital art, and another writes that ‘either way, it is all about the money.’ Another one chips in the topic of climate change with ‘interesting strategy of maxing the carbon footprint for this collection,’ while a user included a curse word in their comment with ‘no one ___ cares, Damien.’

damien hirst the currency nft
hirst will continue burning the physical copies of ‘the currency’ at newport street gallery until october 30th, 2022

damien hirst the currency nft
The Currency is a collection of 10,000 handmade artworks by Hirst that correspond to 10,000 NFT copies

damien hirst the currency nft
Hirst posted the picture after the burn | image courtesy of Damien Hirst, via Instagram



project info:


name: The Currency

artist: Damien Hirst

gallery: Newport Street Gallery

collaboration: HENI

dates: September 23rd to October 30th, 2022