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Damien Hirst’s “The Currency” was a referendum on NFTs vs. IRL Art. Here are the results | Artnet News

The results are in.

A year ago, Damien Hirst announced a brazen plan to “challenge the concept of value through money and art”, forcing buyers of his NFT project “The Currency” to choose between owning the work of physical art or the digital token connected to it. Now Hirst has announced the final tally of his Twitter account.

So, are NFTs the future? Not according to the participants in this particular experiment. A clear majority chose to swap their NFT for the physical Hirst.

The project consisted of 10,000 unique NFTs, each paired with corresponding artwork made by the British artist in 2016. The digital tokens were sold through a lottery system for $2,000. Each of the works painted in enamel on handmade paper was titled according to the artist’s favorite song lyrics: I will totally sell You, Laughing on our faces, That old art: you’re still so interesting and Where was the money yesterday. No two colors used in the artwork are the same, and each is stamped by the artist with a microdot and a hologram of Hirst’s face.

Hirst announced that his collectors would have to make a choice between the physical artwork and its digital version, and set a deadline of one year, asking them, in effect, to vote for which had more lasting value.

Between July 30 and August 31, 2021, barely a month into the project, 2,036 sales of “The Currency” generated a staggering $47 million. But in the remaining 11 months, “the currency” languished, with price floors and trading volume declining steadily.

In the spring of this year, the “crypto winter” descended and the once-booming NFT market took a hit. In July 2022, mega-platform OpenSea laid off 20% of its staff in anticipation of a “prolonged downturn”. In the entire month of June 2022, only 170 sales of “The Currency” occurred, generating $1.4 million.

Artwork from The Currency, 2021. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.  © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd.  All rights reserved, DACS 2022.

Artwork from The Currency, 2021. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2022.

In the run-up to the final deadline to choose, holders of “The Currency” debated the merits of the two mediums. A post on the Discord server associated with the project lists the benefits of holding NFT, including “much faster and easier to sell” and “you keep the excitement of the project going.” Cons included “no one knows if nfts is a fad” and “nft and crypto market is extremely volatile”.

As for the preservation of physical footprints, the benefits have included “they are even more beautiful in person” and “a safe store of wealth that will likely increase in value”. Cons included “you’ll have to insure it” and “you lose your seat on the mad dash if you drop your nft, and you could get massive fomo.”

In total, Hirst’s project generated approximately $89 million in sales. Secondary prices still hover around $7,500 for “The Currency” NFTs, but one of the painted works sold for $26,000 at Phillips London in January.

“The final numbers are: 5,149 physical and 4,851 NFT (meaning I will need to burn 4,851 matching physical offers),” Hirst said. wroteenclosing images of himself prostrate on archival boxes containing the reams of works on paper.

However, Hirst himself remains all-in on NFTs. In fact, in a thread following up on his original announcement, he posted that 1,000 of the remaining NFTs belong to him personally. He said he kept them “to show my 100% support and faith in the NFT world.”

Screenshot of Damien Hirst's tweets

Screenshot of a series of tweets from Damien Hirst stating that he was keeping his personal “The Currency” NFTs.

Damien Hirst and HENI, the platform that launched the project, will collaborate for an exhibition of the painted works at Newport Street Gallery in London which will open on September 9, 2022. The burning spectacular will take place at a specific time each day, and an event of A major closing during Frieze week in October will feature a massive bonfire of the remaining works that have been sacrificed by NFT evangelists.

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