‘Damien Hirst is burning his art why can’t I?’: Artist smashes plates and sets fire to book at NFT show opening

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He wore a trilby, appeared slightly drunk and, safe to say, is not a fan of Damien Hirst. Last night at the packed opening of The Currency exhibition (until 30 October), a solo show by the YBA at his own Newport Street Gallery in London, an incident broke out that moved the conversation from one attention-seeking artist to another.

It began in the second-floor gift shop of Hirst’s private museum in Vauxhall, when a man, who identified himself to The Art Newspaper as “Victor, a painter/sculptor” (and not much else), smashed a ceramic plate he had bought moments earlier on the ground. This was not any plate, but one adorned with multi-coloured dots, and pertained to Hirst’s series of Spot paintings.

Installation view of Damien Hirst’s The Currency at Newport Street Gallery

Thousands of oil on paper works in this style, made in 2016, form the crux of The Currency exhibition, where they hang in glass squares organised into columns that are suspended from the ceiling. Around half of these squares, rather than encasing a work, show a grey translucent copy of a dot painting. These represent the 4,851 works (of the 10,000 that make up the series) which, upon the artist’s offer last year, were traded in by their owners for a corresponding NFT. Those physical works will be soon burned during Frieze week in London next month as part of Hirst’s statement on value, which “touches on the idea of art as a currency and a store of wealth”, the artist previously told The Art Newspaper.

With Hirst’s stunt in mind, Victor likely saw no reason as to why the YBA would then object to him torching a catalogue produced for the exhibition—he tell us that he bought two copies, each for £300, only one of which he will burn. And so—once he had been forcibly evicted by gallery security after smashing more plates in the lobby—he did just that.

Setting fire to the book on the street outside the gallery, he pointed out: “If [Hirst] is burning his art, why can’t I?”. The flames—around which a crowd quickly gathered like chilly campers—were eventually extinguished by a security guard. Victor then trampled on the book muttering expletives, before sauntering off into the night. And while he refused to answer further questions, he did his share his Twitter handle and accept our request to follow his private Instagram. A cursory scroll through both reveal that his artistic practice, fittingly for a man of such “pointed” critique, is largely based on triangles.

A sceptic might ask whether Victor was in fact hired by Hirst to provide a meta commentary on the exhibition’s themes. Newport Street Gallery has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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