English artist and trendsetter, Damien Hirst has launched a brand new project. The Currency is artwork in dual formats – the physical format consists of 10,000 hand painted A4 sheets covered with an array of colourful dots, as well as an individual message and a holographic image of Hirst – think, a fiver with the queen, but much more arty.

The second part of the project is digital – each piece has a corresponding NFT. The way that this auction works is fairly simple in NFT terms. Any collector interested in purchasing one of these Currency works, will have to pay for the NFT first. Each NFT comes in at $2,000 – then the collector will have a year to decide whether they want the physical or digital art. The other will then be destroyed. A unique twist on a regular NFT launch, but that’s not surprising for Hirst. 

Hirst has, in essence, created himself a form of cash. Again, think a fiver but more arty. The rationale for Hirst’s collection is that money is essentially a social phenomenon – it only has value because of the social constructs we have built. This contrasts nicely with the NFT world, these digital artworks only have value because of their scarcity – people want them so they’ll pay. It’s a clever twist, the more you scratch away at the layers of The Currecy, you realise it is much more complex than a cow in formaldehyde.

Hirst is challenging our very perception of currency, economics and the cash driven capitalist world that we have created. All that being said, Hirst is still selling these works for a couple of grand each, so perhaps he’s not the anti-capitalist that The Currency suggests.

The entire work poses the question: what is more important, physical or digital art? It’s a question that has troubled the minds of many an artist – Hirst is not the first traditional artist to pose the physical vs digital question. Over a decade ago,a Banksy was sold to Protocol for $95,000. The work was then burned live on Twitter, so that only an NFT version of the work survived. The NFT then sold for $380,000.

Hirst is following in these footsteps, especially with the burning of the art. He is highlighting the quandary that two communities will be vying for his work, both physical and digital – each of which are fervent collectors and have a fair amount of cash to throw about. I think the piece is designed to highlight the absurdity around currency, money and economics. 

Hirst is challenging you to question your relationship with art and with traditional money. Why is art valuable? Why is money valuable? Why would someone who is clearly skeptical of traditional economic values charge 2k for an NFT? 

Maybe only Hirst knows, but I’m certain that this work will be a smash hit on both sides of the art community – Hirst is a huge name and will command high demand amongst art fans. I would be interested to see how many of each piece are left in a few years. Many people would say the physical art will outlast the digital – but don’t underestimate the value that NFTs have. They’re growing more and more, pretty much day by day. NFTs are already commanding massive price tags and an artist with the commercial appeal of Hirst is likely to bring more and more collectors to the blockchain.