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The Value Of Art

Damien Hirst is an English artist, entrepreneur and art collector. Most notably recognised as being an enfant terrible of the 1990s art scene, Hirst would submerge dead animals in formaldehyde as part of his artwork.

Now, whether or not you think this is art is completely subjective, in fact, questions surrounding the nature of art and whether a particular piece of art is valuable, are not exactly new. Turning a urinal upside down and slapping a signature on it turned out to be a revelation for the artworld with Marcel Duchamp's 'Fountain' in 1917, playing a big part in the history of art.

Fast forward over 100 years to present day, and the questions are still as relevant as ever. Only now with the recent hype surrounding NFTs, artists are inspired in new ways with their artwork, including how its sold. This is where Damien Hirst comes in with his idea, posing the question through the participation of thousands of collectors, which is more valuable -physical artworks or the digital artworks?

The Currency Artworks

HENI works with leading artists across the world, believing in the importance of art with the goal of making it accessible to everyone, and recently, HENI and Damien Hirst joined forces as part of a collaboration which sees an exhibition of paintings from Hirst's first NFT collection, otherwise known as The Currency artworks.

The Currency, launched by HENI in July 2021, is a collection of 10,000 NFTs each corresponding with 10,000 original paintings by Damien Hirst himself. For this project, collectors were asked to decide whether they wanted to either keep the NFT, or swap it for the physical artwork, with the collectors being told that they could not keep both, and that it was a one-way process. Hirst describes The Currency as a work of art in which people participate by buying, holding, selling and exchanging the artworks.

Damien Hirst began the exhibition during Frieze Week, by burning hundreds of his own spot paintings that were created in 2016, after offering potential buyers the choice of either purchasing them as original physical artworks or as £2,000 non-fungible tokens.

Following Frieze Week, the exhibition remained open, with physical artworks continuing to be destroyed, with visitors encouraged to come along and witness art created by Hirst being burned.

The exhibition began at Newport Street Gallery on 23rd September, and drew to a close on 30th October.

The Currency Chronicles

The Currency Chronicles is a publication released during the exhibition, which outlines the experiment from the experience of the community during the first phase of the project. To prove their authenticity, the artwork includes a watermark, a microdot and a hologram containing a portrait of the artist.

Each artwork is individual in that no colour is repeated more than once, with the titles being generated through the application of machine learning of lyrics from the artist's favourite songs.

Published under HENI, The Currency: Chronicles Vol. 1 also includes a collection of essays and personal stories as well as artworks that have all been inspired by the first year of The Currency, with a foreword by none other than the legend that is Stephen Fry, and over 150 'chronicles' created by members of the HENI community.

Challenging The Concept Of Art

One year ago, Damien Hirst announced he was going to “challenge the concept of value through money and art", and only a month into his project, The Currency brought in an overwhelming $47 million, however, over the remaining 11 months, interest in the project declined with both floor prices and trading volume decreasing.

In the end, the numbers were 5,149 physicals, and 4,851 NFTs, meaning each individual digital version had to be burned on a daily basis.

So, what does have more value when it comes to physical and digital art? With technology advancing, and digital artworks becoming more and more prominent, a digital version could give physical a run for its money. But with the history that physical artworks can bring, it's difficult to say. Who know? Ask again in another 1000 years when technology has advanced even further. Needless to say, it's an interesting concept that undoubtedly brought a community together.