Damien Hirst is a British contemporary artist who rose to prominence in the 1990s as part of the Young British Artists (YBAs) movement, which included other notable artists such as Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin.
The YBAs were known for their experimental, provocative, and somewhat controversial artworks, which challenged the traditional norms of art and society. Hirst’s early work, which is arguably still his most famous, was characterized by his use of dead animals, formaldehyde, and medicine cabinets to create installations and sculptures that explored themes such as mortality, consumer culture, and the role of art in contemporary society. You are most likely familiar with works such as “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” a shark preserved in formaldehyde, and “For the Love of God,” a platinum cast of a human skull encrusted with diamonds.
I like some of his work and would consider including some of it in my own portfolio, such as his stained-glass butterflies or something from his pharmaceuticals series. His work is typically simple and kind of dumb, but not entirely unlikable, which can make him rather tricky to review. However, I think he is a solid investment choice because he has a proven track record as a collector favorite. Additionally, he is one of the most well-known contemporary artists in the world, with a whole ecosystem of galleries, dealers, and collectors working to uphold his prices.
But still, something gnaws at me about Hirst, and I don’t know exactly what it is yet. It might be that his work reminds me of the art produced by an average edgy art school student with a trust fund. He is not “bad,” but I see no convincing reason why he has advanced to this level in the art world. Personality and politics must play a part for an artist to succeed at this level, but Hirst is not exactly charming nor interesting. But the success of Elon Musk and Tesla’s stock price is also bewildering to me, so I’m open to being wrong. And ultimately, I can put these feelings to the side to evaluate his worth as an investment.
I could potentially see the value in collecting Hirst’s cheaper pieces like “The Empresses Series.” This series is comprised of five compositions, each named after a historical female figure and of an edition number corresponding to the demand at the time of its release. Collectors had a choice of receiving a physical print or an NFT of the artwork. About half of each version was requested as NFTs. Importantly, the NFTs can be converted into a physical print at the behest of the collector in the future.
The cut-off for collectors to convert the NFT to a physical print is 10 am EST February 5th, 2025. Which means that the number of physical copies of this edition will likely be fewer than the original edition size after this date. Some collectors will decide to keep the NFT deed version of the artwork rather than have it converted to a physical print, and some may lose access to their crypto wallets or simply forget to convert them. This will be a good thing in terms of having the physical printed copy of the artwork appreciate in value due to the improvement in its scarcity.
On the other hand, because each NFT that is converted into a physical print is “destroyed” after the fact, it will be curious to see what becomes of the NFTs that are left over after the passing of February 5th. Will they become effectively worthless? Or will they become far more valuable, as there is bound to be only a handful of them left in existence, and they are considerably distinct from their physically printed counterparts (effectively making them their own sub-edition, in my opinion)?
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Read more: Art ETF: Masterworks vs. Yieldstreet
The Empresses Series are not my favourite of his butterfly arrangements, but they are still very likeable and I believe there is some merit in them. I think that if these works could be gained for cheap enough, they could be worth the investment risk. the number of NFTs issued for each of the four versions were: 2,814 (Taytu Betul), 2,853 (Wu Zetian), 3,041 (Nūr Jahān), 3,310 (Suiko), and 3,315 (Theodora).
The high edition number is what makes these works one of Hirst’s more affordable, but I don’t think the market has totally priced in the likelihood that the eventual edition number will be smaller after February 5th 2025, which means there is a potential opportunity here.
Untitled 1, 2011
Xerox print, Signed
Limited edition of 50
Limited edition of 3315
Kashi Sunrise Lotusa, 2020,
Limited edition of 150