Burn Your NFTs: Damien Hirst on the Value of Physical Art vs NFTs 

How rare is rare? Often when we speak about NFTs we allude to notions of scarcity, authenticity, non-fungibility. These concerns can be summed up with one word: rarity. It’s safe to say that like with traditional art the value of an NFT is based on its perceived rarity. Even in a collection of 10,000 NFTs there are still some with uncommon attributes that are of higher value than others. 

Does this mean that we can value NFTs the same as with traditional art? With traditional art the question of rarity is simplified to a greater extent. Since the art market operates on a supply and demand basis, it’s easier to restrict an artist’s supply of paintings for a perceived sense of rarity. With NFTs, however, the issue is more complex. We have to ask ourselves which is more valuable and to whom – an NFT or a physical artwork? 

Recently, the British artist Damien Hirst made headlines after deciding to burn 1000 artworks after collectors chose to keep the NFTs representing the images. Hirst launched the NFT collection in July 2021 – 10,000 NFTs corresponding to 10,000 physical artworks of colored spots. Collectors could choose between keeping the physical artworks or the NFT representing the art. The conditions of purchase were such that you could either have one or the other and not both. 

The majority of collectors decided to keep the physical artworks, thereby relinquishing the NFTs. Those that opted for the NFTs had their physical works burned. This move brings up questions concerning the value of digital over physical and vice versa. Is Hirst really destroying millions of dollars worth of artwork as a symbolic gesture? Not quite. By burning the physical artworks, the value is transferred over to the corresponding NFTs.  By burning the physical artworks Hirst is ultimately signaling his allegiance to NFTs as a medium for the exploration of art’s value.

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How rare is rare? Often when we speak about NFTs we allude to notions of scarcity, authenticity, non-fungibility. These concerns can be summed up with one word: rarity. It’s safe to say that like with traditional art the value of an NFT is based on its perceived rarity. Even in a collection of 10,000 NFTs there are still some with uncommon attributes that are of higher value than others. 

Does this mean that we can value NFTs the same as with traditional art? With traditional art the question of rarity is simplified to a greater extent. Since the art market operates on a supply and demand basis, it’s easier to restrict an artist’s supply of paintings for a perceived sense of rarity. With NFTs, however, the issue is more complex. We have to ask ourselves which is more valuable and to whom – an NFT or a physical artwork? 

Recently, the British artist Damien Hirst made headlines after deciding to burn 1000 artworks after collectors chose to keep the NFTs representing the images. Hirst launched the NFT collection in July 2021 – 10,000 NFTs corresponding to 10,000 physical artworks of colored spots. Collectors could choose between keeping the physical artworks or the NFT representing the art. The conditions of purchase were such that you could either have one or the other and not both. 

The majority of collectors decided to keep the physical artworks, thereby relinquishing the NFTs. Those that opted for the NFTs had their physical works burned. This move brings up questions concerning the value of digital over physical and vice versa. Is Hirst really destroying millions of dollars worth of artwork as a symbolic gesture? Not quite. By burning the physical artworks, the value is transferred over to the corresponding NFTs.  By burning the physical artworks Hirst is ultimately signaling his allegiance to NFTs as a medium for the exploration of art’s value.

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