These days, outer space has become a go-to destination for people who hope to distinguish themselves as especially rich and awful. So the news that artist Jeff Koons will be sending sculptures on a lunar voyage for permanent installation on the moon almost makes too much sense. Perhaps someone from Koons’s team read our 2018 reporting on the theoretical 2023 private space tour of Japanese billionaire Yusaka Maezawa, wherein this reporter humbly suggested that we take the pop artist to space and leave him there, and decided to at least partially implement the concept.
“In an exploration of the imagination and technological innovation of the human race, the artist will send a group of sculptures to the Moon on an Intuitive Machines lunar lander, to be launched at Kennedy Space Center later this year,” reads an email from Pace Gallery, which represents Koons. The gallery also announced its partnership with Koons on his first-ever NFT project, titled Moon Phases. The NFTs will incorporate the artist’s efforts to send his art to the moon, a process that involves Houston-based Intuitive Machines. The company is one of three contracted by NASA in 2019 to develop commercial lunar landers, and their Nova-C spacecraft was one of the winning designs. These tall, cylindrical vessels will now carry five scientific payloads for NASA, as well as some commercial cargo, including a transparent, thermally coated cube measuring six inches on all sides, which will carry Koons’s work beyond the outer stratosphere. One must tip the hat to Koons for incorporating upper-upper-class space tourism into NFTs, thus making them the most obnoxious and wasteful example of an already deeply obnoxious and wasteful art movement.
Frankly, the possibility of Koons as the maker of the first “authorized” artworks on the moon is absolutely fitting for so many reasons. The artist has always touted a desire to make work with universal themes that appeal to a global audience, and now he will literally be doing so. Also, one cannot underestimate the amount of ego necessary to put art on the fucking moon; it requires imagining that people going to space are doing so to look at tiny sculptures instead of, you know, SPACE. If there’s one thing that can hold up against the magnitude of cold, vibrant, airless eternity, it’s Jeff Koons’s ego. Finally, Koons is the perfect choice for inclusion in a mission that seems to prepare for routinized space travel, which is definitely not part of the plan to colonize the moon as a planet-sized bomb shelter for the ultra-rich when our world becomes uninhabitable. The ultra-rich would never do something like leaving 99.9% of the population to die horribly while they drink space martinis and look at tiny Jeff Koons sculptures, right?
Of course, this art race to space is already a foregone conclusion, as our 2017 reporting on the Museum of Contemporary Art on the Moon (MOCAM) demonstrates, and Koons isn’t the only one with his hat in the ring. As reported by Vogue, competing space company Astrobotic also has plans to get art to the moon, sending an artwork by Sacha Jafri. The Dubai-based artist is well known for an ongoing effort to “connect the world through the largest painting ever created on canvas.” Of course, both of these contenders follow a 1969 work by American sculptor Forrest Myers, “The Moon Museum,” which was allegedly the first artwork (though unauthorized) to have traveled to the moon. Myers worked with scientists from Bell Laboratories to produce an edition of tiny ceramic tiles onto which drawings by him, Andy Warhol, David Novros, Robert Rauschenberg, and John Chamberlin were inscribed. Apparently, one of the tiles was covertly attached to the Apollo 12 spacecraft and left on the moon. If the moon follows Earth’s trends, we can look forward to the first female artist being exhibited there sometime in the early 3000s.
Honestly, watching Koons talk about his Moon Phases works in a video released by Pace Gallery, who can be mad at him? With the same wide-eyed sincerity that has carried him through decades of success, Koons has now set his eyes on a celestial horizon.
“I can see my whole history as an artist,” said Koons. “I can look at this project and I can see the ideas that I had from the very beginning. Now it’s becoming universal, it’s even being outside the realm of the global.” Go ahead, Jeff. Who would dare stop you?
And just in case it turns out that I have a more general knack for near-enough future-casting, I predict the next great art trend will be Channing Tatum coming over to my house for a cup of coffee and respectful conversation.