Remember when NFTs were just a vague thing you heard rumblings about from tech bros and not an inescapable part of pop culture? Way back when, artist Damien Hirst — always the early adapter — released The Currency, a collection of 10,000 NFTs, which drew both skepticism and excitement in the then-young crypto controversy.
His collection featured a series of A4-sized papers covered in colorful dots, rendered digitally. Buyers paid $2,000 to enter a raffle to receive either the physical artwork or its corresponding NFT. Whatever they didn’t choose, was burned and turned to ash — the NFT equivalent of which is sending the art to an inaccessible address, because the internet is forever.
The collection essentially tested the purchaser’s faith in the "new art form" and what consumers of art deem valuable. Nearly a year (and several bitcoin crashes) later, NFTs have become a part of commonplace conversation, but have they broken through the proverbial cultural firewall?
Unveiling the results of his The Currency experiment, the answer seems to be “no.” The final count, according to Hirst’s Twitter announcement, came in at 5,149 physical to 4,851 NFTs. To make the difference even more stark, 1,000 of the NFTs actually belong to Hirst, meaning only 3,851 were selected by purchasers as their medium of choice.
Even Hirst had a hard time choosing, sharing his decision-making process in a thread. “I have been all over the fucking shop with my decision making, trying to work out what I should do,” he added. “In the beginning, I had thought I would definitely chose all physical... Then I thought half-half and then I felt I had to keep all my 1,000 as NFTs and then all paper again and round and round I’ve gone, head in a spin.”
But in contrast to the popular vote, Hirst went all-in on NFTs. In the tweet, Hirst confirmed he’ll be burning the remaining 4,851 physical Tenders, which should make for one hell of a bonfire. If pure pyromania was exciting enough for Hirst, the $89 million made throughout the run of The Currency is certainly something to celebrate.
Whether or not NFTs are the future of investment and art, Hirst made out like a bandit, though he won’t be going off-grid any time soon.
“I have no idea what the future holds, whether the NFTs or physicals are going to be more valuable or less,” said Hirst. “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.”
For whatever path you chose — IRL or URL — Hirst’s The Currency marks the start of diverging roads in the art world. We’ll see where he takes us next.
Photo via Getty/ Oli Scarff
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