Apollo Magazine

Damien Hirst, new kid on the blockchain

Damien Hirst has joined the NFT funfair – and he’s even brought former Bank of England governor Mark Carney along for the ride

Blue rinse and repeat: Damien Hirst with The Currency artworks.

Blue rinse and repeat: Damien Hirst with The Currency artworks. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd; © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd, DACS 2021

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Summer should be time to unwind, even in these trying times, but your roving correspondent is instead pacing around, waiting to hear if they have been successful in their bid to buy into Damien Hirst’s new wheeze, The Currency. As the latest entrant to the non-fungible token funfair, the artist has come up with a genuinely novel proposition. Hirst has created 10,000 unique spot paintings, each signed and numbered but also bearing a most-banknote-like watermark and hologram. Each corresponds to a NFT, which can be yours for $2,000. At the end of two months, however, the fortunate owners of an NFT will have to decide whether to stick with their non-fungible token, in which case the physical painting it represents will be destroyed, or to opt to keep the original artwork – in which case the NFT will be deleted from the Palm blockchain.

Who can say which will be worth more in the long run? Not Damien Hirst, who says that he is genuinely uncertain what people will plump for. As a side-order to all the suspense, a video produced by HENI presents the entrepreneurial artist in conversation with the former governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney – an entertaining encounter in which the pair kick around their ideas about money and conceptual art. Carney gamely answers Hirst’s more wide-ranging questions such as ‘How do you hold back greed?’, while managing to move the conversation to a more… conceptual level: ‘Marx would say,’ he explains, ‘that one of the unique features of money is that it represents infinite wants.’

The deadline to apply for one of the spot paintings passed on Wednesday. Rakewell is keeping fingers crossed. In the meantime, your increasingly impatient correspondent can’t help noting some incidental ironies. The Palm blockchain which is to host Hirst’s NFTs is 99 per cent per cent more energy efficient than Ethereum or Bitcoin and has ‘low gas costs and near instant transaction finality’ – music to the ears of art lovers! And perhaps also to Carney, who is the UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance. But while Hirst talks in the video of not being interested in the image of the starving artist in a garret, his company Science (UK) is to receive £15m from the UK government’s ‘coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme’. Science UK in turn owes more than £100m to its offshore parent company Science. But let other pens dwell on the nitty gritty of the artist’s complicated accounts. For, as Hirst says of The Currency, ‘It’s not just “Where’s the value?” It’s also “Where’s the joy?”’

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.

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