Damien Hirst’s NFT experiment is about to come to an end. As we previously mentioned, the British artist made 10K unique dot paintings in 2016 and last year created a corresponding NFT that he sold for $2,000 each. Entitled, “The Currency”, the project gives collectors the ability to either keep the NFT or trade it in for the physical artwork. Collectors must choose by July 27, 2022 at 3pm and cannot have both. Collectors that opt for the NFT can see the physical paintings destroyed at Hirst’s UK studio starting on September 9.
“The Currency” as explained by Hirst, “explores the boundaries of art and currency – when art changes and becomes a currency, and when currency becomes art. It’s not a coincidence that governments use art on coins and notes. They do this to help us believe in money. Without art, it’s hard for us to believe in anything.”
Hirst himself kept 1000 NFTs, with the final numbers excluding Hirst’s 1000 being 5149 physical and 3851 nfts (57.21% physical) but with Hirst’s 1000 the numbers get closer to a coin flip (51.49% / 48.51%).
Heni Analytics, the chain processing company, shows that the value of the NFTs on the secondary market plummeted in correlation to the crypto drop from the beginning of this year. For example, between 30 July and 31 August 2021, there were 2,036 sales of The Currency totalling $47.9m ($23,526 each) contrasted with June 2022, with 170 sales, totalling $1.4m. ($8,235 each).
How are the physical works doing? In January, one of the original paintings sold at Phillips in London for £18,900 (about 22,700). More recently another painting went up for sale at Heritage, after the July 27 deadline.
It’s not a completely surprising result as Hirst released the drop at the height of NFT mania with a lot of crypto holders diversifying their Ether holdings with NFTs. The drop by Hirst signified one of the first times that a major artist has dabbled with NFTs and coincided with many NFT conferences that contributed to the hype.
At the same time, a lot of Hirst’s long-time collectors probably wanted the original painting since the buying, selling, and trading of art has been a time-tested store of value. Furthermore, the crypto market’s crash has led to the masses trying to understand the value amongst the coin and associated products, like NFTs.
However, the interesting thing about NFTs is that owners can always be tracked down and long lost pieces won’t miraculously be discovered. Takashi Murakami, the prolific Japanese artist, apologized to his NFT holders after the crypto crash and is taking advantage of this traceability by sending out t-shirt merchandise to his NFT collectors (although a holder friend said, “I paid 20K and all I got was a lousy t-shirt and a JPEG”).
Will Hirst reward his NFT holders with additional artwork? The logistics of tracking down the owner of a physical piece that has been sold, resold, gifted, auctioned is much too difficult. Does Hirst know something that we don’t by keeping 1000 of the NFTs? After all, he has the ultimate insider information on what will happen next.
The Future of the Future
What does this result mean? Is this the end of NFTs? Or does this show strength in the NFT market with 43% opting to hold the digital asset (outside of Hirst himself)? Drop us a note and let us know what you think and if you are a collector, what option did you choose: the physical piece or the digital one? What do you see as the future of art?