Artists are Burning Their Work for NFTs


The intersection between art and NFTs continues to get more bizarre. Painter Damien Hirst has joined other artists and burned 1,000 of his pieces this week, all in the name of non-fungible tokens.

Hirst posted the burning of artwork from his “The Currency” project on Instagram, saying they will live on as NFTs and that the value of the physical works will transfer to the digitized commodities. According to NPR, Hirst gave collectors the choice a year after their purchases of “The Currency” works to get the physical painting or hold on to the NFT, letting the painting burn in the exchange.

NPR also noted the patrons were pretty evenly split in their decisions, with just a few hundred physical piece owners edging out the NFT holders. The paintings, which were on display at London’s Newport Street Gallery, will be burned during the Frieze London art fair running this week. People quickly pointed out that the unneeded burning of the paintings and NFTs’ already harmful environmental impacts combined with the excessive lighting caused by the display was a problem.

Hirst’s fiery display is unacceptable, even among NFT-supporting artists. This makes it almost entirely transactional to purchase art and, by extension, the assign value.

The destruction of the original work to seemingly transfer its “value” to its NFT is an even trickier question for artists of other mediums. What can digital artists or photographers do to make a similar move? This is not something that should be done. You can delete the RAW original photo. Erase artwork created layer by layer in Procreate or Photoshop? Film the painstaking process of hitting “delete,” on every SD card and cloud copy? The edited and final versions? This, all in the name of hoping the value transcends the art itself into an untested digital currency because, to be clear, though Hirst posits the idea confidently on his Instagram, this is in no way a sure bet.

” Many people believe I am burning millions of dollars worth of art. Instead, I am completing the conversion of the artworks to nfts. The digital value or hard-to-define art will not be lost. I will live stream the entire burn here on Instagram.

Never mind that the NFTs sold for a bargain compared to what his original artwork typically goes for, according to NPR. Hirst admits to how hard it can be to value art. It doesn’t help that art is rapidly falling in value.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.