Meet the Bros Scooping Up Damien Hirst NFTs, What’s Behind Downtown’s Latest Artist-Gallery Split, and More Art-World Gossip

Plus, which celebs attended the unveiling of Christie's Basquiat at Barclays Center? And will you contribute to Wet Paint?

Damien Hirst with works from "The Currency." Courtesy of the artist.

Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].



This past July, two of the art world’s best buzzwords high-fived to create a moderately interesting project: Damien Hirst was minting NFTs. The project, titled “The Currency,” came with a catch. Hirst created and sold more than 10,000 NFTs of his famous dot paintings, each of which had a corresponding flesh-and-blood print. Buyers would have to choose between either “burning” the NFT and trading it in for the painting or keeping the NFT and letting the artist “burn” the painting. Only one of the two would survive.

The NFTs sold for a modest $2,000 a pop, but Hirst raked in over $22 million in the process. What he may not have anticipated is that the project would give birth to a new type of collector—one that knows next to nothing about art and a lot about finance. Yep, a new type of guy just dropped: the finance bro who now loves art and collecting after buying one NFT.

The official window for the NFT buyers to trade in their digital assets for IRL ones opened last week. (It closes on July 27, 2022 at 3 p.m. BST.) To find out what the bros were thinking, Wet Paint slapped on some salmon shorts and ventured over to New York‘s frattiest neighborhood, Murray Hill.

The graph of Hirst's NFT sales from "The Currency." Courtesy of HENI.

The graph of Hirst’s NFT sales from “The Currency.” Courtesy of HENI.

“I’m 100% keeping it as an NFT,” said Joey Quiros, a 33-year-old real-estate broker. “This is to me, the first major NFT project where an artist of this caliber had delved into this space. And I think that that represents something special.”

Prior to his purchase, Quiros admits he didn’t really know much about fine art. But this investment has changed that: “Now suddenly, I find myself reading books about contemporary art! I’m fascinated by provenance! I’m fascinated by all these different aspects of art that I just never ever ever had even the faintest interest in.”

Brett Klein, a 33-year-old financial advisor, told Wet Paint that he’s been fairly torn since the window opened, but he ultimately came out on the side of Quiros. “While I would love to have a Damien Hirst piece hanging in my apartment, I think that over the long term from a historical perspective, I’d be better off holding on to the digital version of it,” he said.

Like Quiros, Klein said the experience of buying this NFT has opened his mind to fine art, and even to more traditional collecting—as soon as he figures out how to file taxes for his new asset. “Some of the tax issues get a little sticky around the NFT space, so I have to figure that out,” Klein explained. “But after that, yes I do plan on diving in.”

To balance out my reporting, I went back downtown to seek out who I consider to be perhaps the prominent bro of the art-tech space: artist and provocateur Ryder Ripps. Ripps himself hadn’t purchased one of the Hirst NFTs, but he had such a clear game plan of what to do with it that maybe he should have.

“I’d trade it in for a painting, then NFT the painting,” he told Wet Paint. Then, Ripps said, he would “bid on my own NFT a ton under an anon account, then have that account resell it for a lot more on another anon account.” (Plus, he’d keep the painting.)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the finance bros call arbitrage.



Pamela Council with the model for A Fountain for Survivors in Times Square, New York. Photo by Alex Webster courtesy of Times Square Arts.

Pamela Council with the model for A Fountain for Survivors in Times Square, New York. Photo by Alex Webster courtesy of Times Square Arts.

There’s a multitude of reasons why an artist might leave their gallery—to reach a new collector base, to get more attention from a dealer, to be associated with a different group of artists. Sometimes, these movements come down to what we in the biz politely call creative differences.

This past week saw one such movement as up-and-comer Pamela Council severed ties with their gallery Denny Dimin the same day that the New York Times ran a profile of the artist to mark their new project with Times Square Arts. (The installation, A Fountain for Survivors, employs hundreds of thousands of acrylic nails in mosaic to create a cocoon-shaped, fully functional fountain.)

After Council posted the news dryly on Twitter, artist Pastiche Lumumba was quick to respond, “I think it was you who posted about not running out of ideas. You’ll be fine.” To which Council replied, “Gotta do what ya gotta do.”

Several sources told Wet Paint that there was tension between the gallery and Council during the install of the fountain, with one spy reporting a screaming match between the artist and a gallerist at the space, with visitors present, soon after the Times Square project opened.

“We care very deeply about our artists and the supportive culture we’ve built at the gallery,” Elizabeth Denny told Wet Paint via email, declining to comment on the specifics of the split. “We have fulfilled all of our professional obligations to Pamela through the end of their exhibition and offered our full support on their recent Times Square Arts commission. However, through this process, we have come to recognize that this is not a productive or sustainable long-term relationship. We wish Pamela all the best moving forward.”

Council declined to comment, but a representative confirmed the artist’s relationship with Times Square Arts remains strong, as does the relationship between Denny Dimin and Times Square Arts. (Just be glad you aren’t attending Thanksgiving with this whole group.)

Where Council will show next is not yet known.



Rita Ora performing at Two x Two’s Gala. Photo by Kevin Tachman.

*** Jay-Z and Georgina Bloomberg at the unveiling of the (pee-stained) Basquiat portrait by Andy Warhol at Barclays Center *** Kehinde Wiley and his dogs at the opening of Nicodim’s new space in Soho *** Tony Hawk leaving Film Forum, hopefully after seeing the fabulous new documentary on The Velvet Underground, but who knows *** Artist Raùl De Nieves, Dis founder Lauren Boyle, and designer Telfar Clemens dining at Bacaro in Dimes Square *** Jake Gyllenhaal at the Lower East Side‘s La Mercerie, turning heads in a yellow sweater with his hair in a loose bun *** Jenna Gribbon at the gala for the charity auction Two x Two in Dallas at the Rachofsky House, where none other than Who Queen Rita Ora performed ***



… A certain semi-anonymous artist (but we can make a fairly-confident educated guess) isn’t a very thoughtful patron to DimesDavid Roy aka BLACKNASA will be launching a rocket from Dan Colen’s Sky High Farm in upstate New York next weekend … Miles McEnery now represents figurative painter Kurt KauperBen Sutton has departed his role at Artsy to take over as Editor, Americas for the Art Newspaper … New Museum Triennial standout Cynthia Daignault has joined Kasmin‘s roster, beginning with a solo show next month … A portrait of critic Dean Kissick by Srijon Chowdhury was apparently purchased by a (Spike art magazine-loving?) Indian prince … Jen Stark and Daniel Arsham’s go-to NFT-minting platform CXIP will be doing guerrilla marketing throughout New York next week, so keep an eye out … A beloved ceramic figure was swiped from James Murphy’s Brooklyn restaurant The Four Horsemen 



A very endearing Question Mark sculpture by Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell at the University of Suffolk. (Photo by: Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A very endearing Question Mark sculpture by Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell at the University of Suffolk. (Photo by: Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

One of the best things about this column’s loyal readers is that you all are opinionated. Let’s capitalize on that! Going forward, Wet Paint will be giving readers a prompt to mull over weekly. Email your response to [email protected], and in each column, I’ll round up the smartest, the quippiest, and the most surprising responses for everyone to read.

To start, I ask you this: What do you think is the world’s most overrated work of art? How about the most underrated?

I already have my answers. What are yours?

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