In the ongoing race to ensure that humanity’s extra-planetary footprint includes the world’s worst artworks, an underwhelming-looking piece by British artist Sacha Jafri is preparing to head to the moon.
Announced last year by Selenian, a company that claims to specialize in “the curation of art in space,” Jafri’s moon-bound work “We Rise Together – By the Light of the Moon” is an etching on gold-covered aluminium that features a man and woman surrounded by a scrawling motif of 88 hearts in various sizes. It will be carried on a United Launch Alliance rocket powered by engines developed by Jeff Bezos’s aerospace technology company Blue Origin and deposited by an Astrobotic lunar lander. When the work lands physically on the lunar surface, “a little beep sounds in the control room,” Jafri told CNN, upon which 88 NFTs will be released on Earth. And while that description sounds like something generated by a drunk ChatGPT bot, even artificial intelligence lacks the power to come up with ideas this bad.
“The original artwork was this beautiful heart motif,” Jafri explained. “Two figures entwined, reconnecting and around them is blossoming flora, fauna.” This composition allegedly captures “the unification of humanity through love and empathy” — though in reality, if you were to receive a Valentine’s Day card bearing this image, you would immediately burn it and block the sender in your phone. The main benefit of sending this art into space, from my point of view, is that it greatly reduces the odds that anyone will ever have to look at it in person.
Jafri is known for reportedly creating a Guinness Book of World Records-setting 17,000-square-foot canvas, humbly titled “The Journey of Humanity,” that he created at the Atlantis Palm hotel in Dubai and sold for $62 million. (The current record-holder for the largest canvas, according to the Guinness Book website, is Emad Salehi of Qatar as of December 2022.) The website of Leila Heller Gallery in Chelsea lists Jafri’s work as being in the collections of Barack Obama, George Clooney, and “the UAE Ruling Family.” Now, it seems that the artist has gone from making art so big that it can be seen from space to sending works directly into it. I’d say it’s really great to see an artist grow in their practice that way, but I think we can all agree that it definitely isn’t.
According to reports, the artwork was commissioned by the British space robotics technology Spacebit and will be sent using NASA’s Commercial Payload Services, which offers “rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services from American companies” for projects that “advance capabilities for science, exploration or commercial development of the Moon.” (A representative for NASA quickly clarified to Hyperallergic that the agency “has no involvement or oversight” in the art initiative.)
Of course, space art is a competitive field, with much news being made over last year’s announcement that Jeff Koons would be the first “authorized” artist to send (shitty) artworks to the moon. While the project, titled “Moon Phases,” generated much press and several terrestrial art objects and NFTs, there seems to be no evidence that any of Koons’s sculptures have actually been launched into orbit. (Hyperallergic has reached out to the Pace Gallery for comment on Koons’s space gallery opening.)
They better get a move on, because Elon Musk’s proposed billionaire art tour, allegedly on the schedule for Space X in 2023, is allegedly right around the corner. It would be so embarrassing to send a bunch of people into space and have no shitty art for them to look at. They might be forced to, I dunno, CONTEMPLATE THE INFINITE MYSTERY OF THE FUCKING COSMOS instead.
So, let’s review: Billionaires have grown from loving shitty art to inflicting it on an unsuspecting (and thankfully uncaring) universe; Sacha Jafri has grown from making (maybe) world-record-setting large art to off-world small art; and the men commanding the largest concentration of wealth on the planet continue to have no better ideas about what to do with it besides shoot it into space. It paints a dismal picture for the future — which is incidentally the motto of all current space-art endeavors.
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Thank you for “Move Over, Jeff Koons, Another Awful Artwork Is Heading to the Moon.”
Discouraging, but at least it isn’t going forward without first calling it out.
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