Damien Hirst burns 1000 of his own signature paintings, and he says he’ll burn thousands more to make his point about the value of art.

“The Currency” is a project that Hirst began six years ago. He painted 10,000 unique paintings, all abstract works of colored dots on ordinary paper. He then put all 10,000 in a vault, and put up 10,000 corresponding NFTs, then a very new phenomenon, for sale to collectors. One year after the digital copies of his art had sold, he offered the owners a choice – they could trade in their digital token of ownership for the real painting it represented, or they could keep the NFT, and he would burn the original.

The buyers were almost an even split. The owners of 4851 of the tokens representing painting chose to allow the real artwork to burn.

They may be kicking themselves now, with the value of NFTs everywhere making a steep nosedive over matters of security and fraud, but it’s too late. Hirst did not give any of them an option to alter their decision once it was made. And on Tuesday, in the Newport Street Gallery in London, in front of journalists and a livestream, Hirst fed the first 1000 of the forsaken paintings into six glass-enclosed incinerators.

“A lot of people think I’m burning millions of dollars of art but I’m not,” Hirst wrote on his Instagram. “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 sold the original NFTs at $2000 each, with the particular paintings being chosen randomly for each recipient. But since then, with full knowledge of what would happen to the originals, some of those tokens have changed hands for as much as $176,000. The average “The Currency” token has re-sold for $20,000, still ten times the original price.

Damien Hirst has called the entire project ‘an experiment in belief.’

Photo: mundissima / Shutterstock