“I used to give away a lot of art to people” reflects Damien Hirst in one of his sprawling studios in West London. “And they always sold it in a lot less time than I thought. You know, they wouldn’t sell it for leukemia treatment for their kids or their mother or anything, they would sell it to buy handbags. And I would say, ‘Damn it, I hate that!’ “
Hirst isn’t looking to make a few bucks on a collector’s NFT. He’s not particularly keen on celebrating career highlights or even attracting a younger, richer, fancier crowd.
He wants to know where the line between art and money is drawn. And if it can be drawn at all.
“And I suppose this whole project is like a test for that type of area, right? I’ve resigned myself to that – it’s like walking down the stairs in your house when you have a painting, and it doesn’t take long for the dots to represent dollar signs. I’ve thought about that for a long time. “
Instead of lurking in the background, his latest work focuses on the tension between money and art. The currency is the name for his drop of 10,000 NFTs, each tied to a physical painting created in 2016. After buying a “tender,” as Hirst calls it, worth $ 2,000, collectors will have to decide whether to keep the NFT, which is a high-resolution photo of the painting, or turn on the NFT for the physical painting.
The currency blurring the line between fungibility and non-fungibility, between money and art, and the core decision of the project will force any collector to make a value judgment between paintings in the Meatspace and NFTs. Naturally The currency raises a number of philosophical questions: fOr first of all, what is the value of the art versus dollar value if it is sold in the secondary market? What is the value of the display on the wall compared to a monitor? What is the value of portability versus durability?
However, these complex, perhaps unanswerable questions can mask a more intimate question he ultimately asks his audience: what am i worth to you
It is as if Newton was hit on the head with an apple: when Hirst first learned about art, he also got to know the art market.
Hirst often cites an early art teacher as a fundamental influence – a “really great guy, a theatrical guy” who recruited him as the bottom in a school production of production A midsummer night’s dream; who fought valiantly to secure a place in sixth grade; and perhaps most importantly, who stocked the classroom with art auction catalogs.
“I looked at all of the auction items right from the start, which is a good way to […] and I looked at the prices and I remember that you could make 10 grand, 20 grand for a Picasso or something, ”Hirst told Cointelegraph. “It wasn’t a lot of money, but for me it was a lot of money back then. It was good to see art and money in this catalog. “
Much like how a happy coincidence helped Newton grasp a fundamental law of physics, Hirst recognized early on that achieving fame in his field meant accepting and adapting to reality that fine art and money are inextricably linked.
Today, his lucrative wizardry is well known – he even occasionally comes into the spotlight of his work. He is a master and a trailblazer when it comes to what crypto aficionados might refer to as “pump anomics” – the slurry of marketing, conceptual or visionary weight, and simple supply / demand mechanisms inherent in the scarcity and value of a project can soar to stratospheric heights.
The highlights include the 2008 sale of Always beautiful in my head forever – a complete exhibition of 223 works that bypassed galleries in an unprecedented step in order to sell them directly at auction for a staggering 200 million dollars – and For the love of God a diamond-studded platinum cast of a skull that was sold for $ 100 million to a consortium of owners that included it. At several points in his career he held the record for the most expensive work of art sold by a living artist; he is currently in second place. Adjusted for inflation anyway.
“I mean, I found out a long time ago that if two people have a lot of money and there isn’t a lot, then if two people have a lot of money and there isn’t a lot, then it will sell for a lot,” he observes. Where some artists accidentally ride Veblen curves to their wealth, Hirst constructs, aligns and starts from them like Evel Knievel.
Hirst and NFTs could be a perfect match for this experiment. NFTs often displace critics apoplectically because of their existence – digital goods, they argue, have no “real” value. Or, on the contrary, there is an emerging group of pearl catchers who say, paradoxically, NFTs have too much Value – that they are a perfect instrument for the commodification and / or securitization of art.
And here is Hirst, an artist who has been criticized similarly on both ends of the value spectrum. He takes these borderline ideas, which are often on the fringes of contemporary visual arts, and summarizes an experiment in order to force collectors and critics alike to choose.
“People get upset when I say, ‘My art is biologically related to money’. I just love that people hate her. It just inspires me to do it. I want to take a look and see what happens. Will it do that? Can you slide it this far without breaking it? Or will it break? I have done that in everything, in the individual art and in this project. “
The “master of exponential growth”
Part, The currency can be seen as an answer to a hypocrisy Hirst struggled with throughout his career – that art was always “associated with a lot of money” but “people weren’t really allowed to talk about it.”
“There’s the Van Gogh thing about being a starving artist and making no money, never selling a painting. And everyone wants that. It’s a complicated thing. I mean, the thing about art is, it’s magic. You know the whole thing is magical. You take really cheap ingredients and combine them to have a value beyond their wildest ingredients. […] Alchemy. That is really art. “
Viewers and collectors only believe sporadically in the “alchemy” of art that has long frustrated them – nobody “looks at the Mona Lisa and says: ‘That’s only 20 pounds in canvas and paint’”, but in contrast, he is during Throughout his career, questions were often asked about the prices of his sculptures in relation to the cost of materials used to make them. It’s a false dichotomy that artists shaping NFTs and dealing with digital scarcity are likely to be familiar – and perhaps Hirst was quick to embrace it as a medium.
“I don’t know exactly why, but I didn’t have this massive resistance that a lot of people I respect have, I saw it as a really amazing thing. I saw it like the invention of paper. It’s like arguing about paper like, “I’m not going to stop using papyrus!” You already live in a world where you can have works of art, prints, and editions, and it seems like you do now can have works of art, prints, editions and NFTs. “
Part of the immediate convenience could be that Hirst intuitively understands digital property. He told a story about one of his sons who bought $ 10,000 worth of digital goods clash of clans, but also adult collectors are increasingly attracted to virtual declarations of ownership.
“In the world I lived in, in which I have increasingly noticed that all the art collectors come up to me and say ‘I just bought this, I just bought this” ” [their phones] and you look at Picassos and Jackson Pollocks, crazy things they have that are worth a lot of money. And they sit in bars and say, ‘I have this, I have that.’ ”
As a result, he’s now wondering whether digital or physical property is a stronger psychological draw – and he’s eager to force people to choose:
“When I look at the NFTs and the actual artwork, I look at it and think, I don’t know, I’m excited about both, I don’t know which is most important. But when I think about it, when I say, “What are people going to do?” It kind of tells me where I’m at, which is that most people do [physical] Art.”
An ironic element of the experiment is that Hirst openly admits that he would be relieved if the technical and market-economy elements of the project flopped. He tells the story of a collector who once came up to him and complained that he couldn’t sell a painting; Hirst thought to himself “Well, put it on the wall!”
There is a universe in which The currency Instead of being fractionated and digitized and widespread and living forever on the blockchain, tenders are simply framed and hung and enjoyed – as an artist, Hirst believes this would be a convenient place for the experiment to end. The risk for him is to “let go”, knowing that collectors can take his work, break it, sell it or even destroy it.
Letting go also means that the project becomes something “living” – acting, moving on marketplaces around the world, changing hands, reaching new target groups. These efforts include the brilliance of Joe Hage, whom Hirst describes as the “Master of Exponential Growth.”
Hage, once described by ARTnews as “a significant but seldom discussed force behind the scenes,” is Hirst’s equivalent of a CTO. Hage commands a small army of data scientists, lawyers, and smart contract developers – one of Palm’s partners, the ConsenSys-supported NFT-centric sidechain Where The currency will drop – tinkering with the project’s specs to create a potentially generous drop strategy.
His team could have likely asked thousands more per tender (Meebits, a project by NFT-Maestros Larva Labs, recently raised over $ 70 million compared to The currency $ 20 million sales), but for the thing to fly you need to offset some of that potential gain for the collectors who are then tested by thriving secondary markets. When prices rise, it will tempt the greed of the collectors who must weigh potential gains – another key element in this The currency wider experiment.
Cults, gods and creators
Forty years after a child looked aimlessly through a pile of auction catalogs, a temple for Damien Hirst is being built in a harmless former parking lot in West London. Palace-like vaulted ceilings with translucent golden windows bathe the top floor in almost cathedral lighting (“‘An Fast Cathedral Light!’ Hirst yells at this reporter from across the park:” I like that! I’ll use that! “).
One day it will be an excellent museum, perhaps Hirst’s equivalent of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; It is currently one of the best private galleries in the world. When Cointelegraph visited him, dozens of his cherry blossom paintings adorned the walls; The French gallery owner Hervé Chandès allegedly took a look at it and offered Hirst an exhibition on site. Hage notes that “fewer than 100 people in the world know this is here” – many of them have undoubtedly absorbed all of this beauty and are, after all, avid buyers of Hirst’s merchandise.
Religions need gods, sects need sect leaders and often cryptocurrencies need founders. The founders attend conferences – annual ritual gatherings in the world’s major capitals – where they nourish the souls of their followers with announcements, announcements, roadmap updates, new whitepapers, and even, rarely, real technical improvements that (even more rarely) could provide a functional benefit to crypto hodlers.
I will publish “The Currency” tomorrow (July 14, 2021) at 3 p.m. on https://t.co/rO9nG5DgFa. This is my global artistic experiment. It is made up of 10,000 NFTs, each corresponding to a unique physical work of art made in 2016. Each work of art is called a “tender”. @PalmNft @HENIGroup pic.twitter.com/ky3PbzmjhQ
– Damien Hirst (@hirst_official) July 13, 2021
In short, until the advent of decentralized funding and the birth of “productive” crypto assets, buying a cryptocurrency meant that speculators were buying a vision – a story about a possible future, often from a charismatic leader.
Leave the artistic implications aside and take Hirst at his word, ironic as it may be: he creates a currency. This is another powerful form of magic that just a few centuries ago was the exclusive source of god kings and emperors. However, as an artist and a modern icon, Hirst could be perfectly placed to start his own.
For starters, when he talks about money he speaks like a crypto founder and eagerly quotes David Graebers Debt: The First 5000 Years.
“It’s just great when you notice [money] is just trust. The debts get too big, then they are wiped out, and they start over, and the whole cycle goes on over and over and people are constantly being ripped off too. ”
He has a thorough understanding of what Charles Eisentein would call “sacred economies” – the knowledge that all money is ultimately backed by nothing but a story, that “the proclamation that money is backed hardly differs from any other ritual Conjuration is different and that it draws its power from the collective human belief. ”While critics like to call Bitcoin a sophisticated Ponzi, it is not much different from the US dollar in this regard.
Me, you and worth
But what does that mean for The currency? Which of the two forms of magic – money and art – is more powerful? Unlike a traditional crypto founder, Hirst willingly admits his doubts. Since he first sold a piece for over a million pounds, he told Cointelegraph, he marveled at the weak relationship between the two, claiming that if he ever found out money was more important than art, he would “stop , to do it. ”
“I think I feared very early on that money was more important. And then I always tried to challenge it. But when I sold a piece for a million pounds, I got utterly scared. I just thought: ‘It’s not worth it.’ “
In a project that asks questions about the nature of value, about art and money, about the physical and the digital, this is the most important question that Hirst is now asking his audience: what am i worth?
“Really, it’s like a test, isn’t it? Do you know about this belief. It’s like, ‘Can you believe in me? Can you believe in it Can you Really to believe in? How Long can you believe in me Does it hold up, does it pile up, does it spread? ’ […] I mean, I don’t know where the art ends and the money begins or ends. The whole thing is crossed over. “