Digital or Physical? Damien Hirst’s New NFT Project Gives Buyers A Choice

Damien Hirst, still the enfant terrible of the UK art scene and reportedly the nation’s richest living artist, is about to add to his fortune with a $20M NFT drop.

His project, called The Currency, is a collection of 10,000 NFTs, which correspond to 10,000 unique paintings of spots created by the artist in 2016. These physical artworks are currently stored in a secure vault in the UK. Each is individually signed and numbered, and the handmade paper used includes myriad security features such as watermarks and holograms, making them difficult to copy. The NFTs representing the artworks will be sold for $2,000 apiece during a July 29 drop.

Damien Hirst has made scores of spot paintings in the last decade.

What’s more, buyers of the NFTs will have until July 27, 2022, to decide if they want to exchange their digital token for the corresponding physical artwork. 

If they decide to do so, the NFT will be burned. But if they decide to keep the NFT — here’s the kicker — the physical artwork associated with that NFT will be burned instead.

The NFT sale is being conducted using the Heni platform on the Palm blockchain, which claims to be “a new NFT ecosystem for culture and creativity, built efficiently with Ethereum.” While Palm is a lesser known blockchain project, it touts low gas costs, fast transaction finality, and more energy efficiency.

“You Can’t Have Both”

This isn’t Hirst’s first foray into NFTs. In March, he sold a collection of 7,481 prints of his artwork for $22.4M.

“What’s exciting about this project is that we’re forcing people to make a choice. You can’t have both,” said Hirst, discussing the collection with former Bank of England governor Mark Carney in an interview for the Financial Times.

It will be interesting to revisit the collection next year and see how many NFT holders have redeemed their tokens for physical art. Do collectors prefer paper or are NFTs really the new art for the cognoscenti?