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British artist Damien Hirst uses NFTs to blur the boundaries between art and money – Cointelegraph Magazine



“I used to give a lot of art away to people,” displays Damien Hirst at one in all his sprawling west London studios. “And they’d always sell it after a lot less time than I thought they would. You know, they wouldn’t sell it for leukaemia treatment for their children or mother or something, they’d sell it to buy handbags. And I’d be like, ‘Damn, I hate that!’”

Hirst shouldn’t be on a quest to make a couple of dollars from a collectible NFT. He’s not notably thinking about celebrating profession highlights, and even attracting a youthful, richer, snazzier viewers.

He desires to know the place the line between art and money is drawn. And if it may be drawn in any respect.

“And I suppose this whole project is like a test of that sort of area, right? I came to terms with it — it’s like, you know, when you walk downstairs in your house if you got a painting and it’s not long before the spots represent dollar signs. I’ve been thinking about that for a long time.”

As an alternative of permitting it to lurk in the background, his newest work brings the pressure between money and art to the fore. The Foreign money is the title for his drop of 10,000 NFTs, every tied to a bodily portray created in 2016. After the $2,000 buy of a “Tender”, as Hirst calls them, collectors can have to select whether or not to maintain the NFT, which can be a high-resolution photograph of the portray, or flip the NFT in for the bodily portray.


Supply: HENI


The Foreign money blurs the line between fungibility and non-fungibility, between money and art, and the challenge’s core selection will power every collector to make a price judgement between work in meatspace and NFTs. By nature The Foreign money raises plenty of philosophical questions: for starters, what’s the worth of the art versus the greenback worth of promoting it on the secondary market? What’s the worth of displaying it on the wall, versus on a monitor? What’s the worth of portability versus permanence?

These advanced, maybe unanswerable queries might obscuring a extra intimate one he’s finally posing to his viewers, nevertheless: what am I price to you?

First Classes

It’s like Newton getting bopped on the head with an apple: as Hirst was first studying about art, he was concurrently studying about the art market. 

Hirst typically cites an early art trainer as a foundational affect — a “really great guy, a theatrical guy” who recruited him as Backside in a college manufacturing of A Midsummer Evening’s Dream; who fought valiantly to safe him a spot in the sixth type; and maybe most significantly, who stored the classroom stocked with art public sale catalogues. 

“From very early on, I was looking at all the items on auction, which is a good way in […] and I’d look at the prices, and I remember you could do like 10 grand, 20 grand for a Picasso or something,” Hirst informed Cointelegraph. “It wasn’t a lot of money, but to me it was a lot of money at the time. Just seeing art and money in that catalogue was good.”

In a lot the identical means a contented accident helped Newton apprehend a elementary regulation of physics, Hirst grasped early on that the attainment of fame in his subject meant accepting and adapting to the actuality that wonderful art and money are inextricably linked. 

Right now, his remunerative wizardry is extensively famend — even sometimes taking the highlight from his work. He’s a grasp and a trailblazer when it comes to what crypto aficionados may name “pumpanomics” — the slurry of promoting, conceptual or visionary heft, and easy provide/demand mechanics inherent in shortage that may make a challenge’s worth soar to stratospheric heights. 

Highlights embrace the 2008 sale of At all times Lovely Inside My Head Endlessly — a whole exhibition of 223 works that, in an unprecedented transfer, bypassed galleries to promote instantly at public sale for a staggering $200 million — and For the Love of God, a diamond-encrusted platinum forged of a cranium that offered for $100 million to a consortium of homeowners that included himself. At a number of factors in his profession he’s held the document for the most costly work of art offered by a residing artist; he at the moment sits in second place. Adjusted for inflation, anyway. 


Supply: HENI


“I mean, I worked out a long time ago that, you know, if there are two people with a lot of money and there’s not a lot of something, it’s going to sell for a lot,” he observes. The place some artists unintentionally journey Veblen curves to fortunes, Hirst constructs, aligns, and launches himself from them like Evel Knievel. 

Hirst and NFTs could also be an ideal match for this experiment. NFTs, by easy advantage of existence, typically set critics apoplectic — digital items, they argue, don’t have ‘real’ worth. Or, in contrast, there’s an rising faction of pearl-clutchers who say NFTs paradoxically have an excessive amount of worth —  that they characterize an ideal software for the commodification and/or securitization of art. 

And right here’s Hirst, an artist who has confronted comparable criticism at each ends of the worth spectrum, taking these liminal notions typically floating at the fringes of up to date wonderful art and concocting an experiment to power collectors and critics alike to select. 

“People get upset if I say, ‘My art is connected in a biological way to money,’ I just love it that people hate it. It just inspires me to do it. I want to look at it and see what happens. Will it do this? Can you push it this far without it breaking? Or will it break? I’ve done that in everything, in individual art and in this project.”

The ‘master of exponential growth’

Partly, The Foreign money might be considered as a response to a hypocrisy Hirst has been battling all through his profession — that art has all the time been “associated with lots of money” however “people weren’t really allowed to talk about it.”

“There’s the Van Gogh thing where you’re supposed to be a starving artist and you don’t make any money, never sell a painting. And everybody wants that. It’s a complicated thing. I mean, the thing about art is, it’s magic. You know, the whole thing is magic. You’re taking really cheap ingredients, and you put them together in a way that they become worth beyond their wildest ingredients. […] Alchemy. That’s what art really is.”

Viewers and collectors solely selectively believing in the “alchemy” of art that has lengthy pissed off him — nobody “looks at the Mona Lisa and says, ‘That’s just 20 quid in canvas and paint,’” however in contrast all through his profession he’s typically been requested about the costs of his sculptures relative to the price of supplies used to create them. It’s a false dichotomy that artists minting NFTs and dealing in digital shortage are possible acquainted with — and maybe why Hirst was fast to embrace them as a medium. 

“I don’t really know why, but I didn’t have that massive resistance that a lot of people I respect have got, I saw it as a really amazing thing. I saw it like the invention of paper. It’s like, you’re arguing about paper, like ‘I’m not going to stop using papyrus!’ You’re already living in a world where you can have artworks, prints, and editions, and it seems like now you can have artwork, prints, editions, and NFTs.”

A part of the instant consolation might be that Hirst intuitively understands digital possession. He recounted a narrative about one in all his sons buying $10,000 price of digital items in Conflict of Clans, however even grown-up collectors are more and more drawn to digital expressions of possession as effectively.

“In the world I was living in, where increasingly I’ve noticed all art collectors are coming up to me, going ‘I’ve just bought this, I’ve just bought this’ on [their phones] and you’re looking at Picassos and Jackson Pollocks, crazy stuff that they’ve got that’s worth huge amounts of money. And they’re sitting in bars, going ‘I’ve got this, I’ve got this.’”

Because of this, he’s now pondering whether or not digital or bodily possession is a extra highly effective psychological draw — and he’s keen to power individuals to make the willpower:

“Looking at the NFTs and the actual artwork, I look at it and I think, I don’t know, I’m excited by both, I don’t know which is most important. But then when I think about it, when I go, ‘what will people do?’ It sort of tells me where I lie, which is that most people will keep the [physical] art.” 

An ironic aspect to the experiment is that Hirst freely admits that he’d be relieved if the challenge’s technical and market components flopped. He tells a narrative a couple of collector who approached him as soon as, griping that he was unable to promote a portray; Hirst thought to himself, ‘Well, put it on the wall!’ 

There’s a universe the place The Foreign money Tenders, as an alternative of being fractionalized and digitized and extensively traded and residing endlessly on the blockchain, are merely framed and hung and loved — as an artist, Hirst thinks that will be a snug place for the experiment to finish. The danger for him is in “letting go,” in realizing that collectors might take, break, promote, and even destroy his work. 

Letting go additionally implies that the challenge turns into one thing that’s “alive” — buying and selling, transferring all through the world in marketplaces, altering arms, reaching new audiences. This effort includes the brilliance of Joe Hage, who Hirst calls “the master of exponential growth.” 


Supply: HENI


Hage, who was as soon as described by ARTnews as a “significant but rarely discussed force behind the scenes,” is Hirst’s equal of a CTO. Commanding a small military of knowledge scientists, attorneys, and sensible contract builders, Hage — one in all the companions of Palm, the ConsenSys-backed NFT-centric sidechain the place The Foreign money will drop — tinkered with the specs of the challenge to create what might end up to be a beneficiant drop technique. 

His crew possible might have charged 1000’s extra per Tender (Meebits, a challenge from NFT maestros Larva Labs, just lately introduced in over $70 million in contrast to The Foreign money’s $20 million sale) however for the factor to take flight you want to offset a few of that potential achieve to collectors, who’re then examined by thriving secondary markets. If costs do soar, it can tempt the greed of collectors, who can have to weigh potential earnings — one other key aspect in The Foreign money’s broader experiment.

Cults, Gods, and Creators

Forty years after a baby aimlessly flipped by means of a stack of auctions catalogues, in an innocuous former automotive park in west London there’s a temple being constructed to Damien Hirst. Palatial vaulted ceilings capped with translucent golden home windows bathe the high ground with virtually cathedral lighting (“‘An Almost Cathedral Light!’ Hirst bellows at this reporter from across the park, “I like that! I’m going to use that!”). 

In the future it’ll be a superb museum, maybe Hirst’s equal of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; for now it’s one in all the greatest personal galleries in the world. When Cointelegraph visited, dozens of his cherry blossom work adorned the partitions; French gallerist Hervé Chandès reportedly took one look and supplied Hirst an exhibition on the spot. Hage notes that “less than 100 people in the world know this is here” —  a lot of them, little doubt, took in all that magnificence and ended up keen consumers of Hirst’s wares. 

Religions want gods, cults want cult leaders, and typically cryptocurrencies want founders. The founders attend conferences — yearly ritual gatherings in the main capitals of the world — the place they nourish the souls of their followers with bulletins, bulletins of bulletins, roadmap updates, new whitepapers, and even, ever-so-rarely, real technical enhancements that (much more hardly ever) may supply practical utility to crypto hodlers. 


I’m releasing “The Currency” at 3pm tomorrow (14th July 2021) on That is my international art work experiment. It contains of 10,000 NFT’s, every corresponding to a singular bodily paintings made in 2016. Every paintings is named a “Tender”. @PalmNft @HENIGroup

— Damien Hirst (@hirst_official) July 13, 2021


Briefly, till the creation of decentralized finance and the beginning of “productive” cryptoassets, shopping for a cryptocurrency meant speculators have been shopping for a imaginative and prescient — a narrative a couple of doable future, typically from a charismatic chief. 

Put aside the creative implications and take Hirst at his phrase, nevertheless ironic: he’s making a foreign money. That is one other highly effective type of magic, one which even only a few centuries in the past was the unique provenance of god-kings and emperors. As an artist and a contemporary icon, nevertheless, Hirst is perhaps completely suited to launch his personal.

For starters, when he talks about money he talks like a crypto founder, eagerly citing David Graeber’s Money owed: The First 5000 Years.

“It’s just amazing when you realize [money] is just trust. The debts get too big, then they wipe it out, and they start again, and the whole cycle goes over and over again, and people are getting ripped off continuously as well.” 

He has a eager understanding of what Charles Eisentein would name “Sacred Economies” —  the data that every one money is finally backed by nothing greater than a narrative, that “the proclamation that money is backed is little different from any other ritual incantation and that it derives its power from collective human belief.” Whereas critics like to name Bitcoin an elaborate Ponzi, in that respect it’s not a lot totally different than the U.S. greenback.

Me, You, and Worth

However what does this imply for The Foreign money? Which of the two types of magic at play — money and art — is extra highly effective? Not like a standard crypto founder, Hirst readily admits his doubts. Since he first offered a chunk for over one million kilos, he informed Cointelegraph, he’s puzzled about the tenuous relationship between the two, and claims that if he ever discovers the money is extra vital than the art, he’d “stop making it.” 

“I guess I had a fear very early on that money was more important. And then, through that I’ve always tried to challenge it. But when I sold a piece for a million pounds, I got total fear. I just thought, ‘It’s not worth it.’”

In a challenge that seeks to increase questions on the nature of worth, about art and money, about the bodily and the digital, that is the most vital query Hirst is now asking his viewers: what am I price

“Really it’s like a test, isn’t it? You know, about that belief. It’s like, ‘Can you believe in me? Can you believe in this? Can you really believe in this? How long can you believe in me? Does it last, does it stack up, does it spread out?’ […] I mean, I don’t know where the art ends and the money starts or ends. The whole thing’s crossed over.”

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