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KT Exclusive: Dubai artist Sacha Jafri's heart-shaped artwork to land on moon in Bezos-backed space mission

Musk appears to lose out in space art race with record-breaking artwork by American sculptor Jeffrey Koons

By Mazhar Farooqui and Joydeep Sen Gupta

Published: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 1:09 PM

Last updated: Fri 18 Feb 2022, 10:57 PM

The world's most recognised symbol of love is all set to find a permanent spot on the moon, Khaleej Times can reveal.

Dubai-based artist Sacha Jafri's heart-shaped artwork, titled We Rise Together – with the Light of The Moon will be sent to the earth's only satellite later this year in the first-ever art mission.

The byte-size heart will contain two intertwined human figures, said Jafri in an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times on Thursday.

"Love and empathy are the key emotions that guide us. Our future is not technology, our future is human. Expression and embrace come from our new world, which is aided by technology but driven by humanity," said Jafri, who has made Dubai his home since 2002 and is also a proud recipient of the UAE's 10-year Golden Visa.

He will officially unveil the project in Dubai next week.

Jafri said he created "a human heart to drive home the central theme of the mission, which is love and empathy. These emotions rise above all forms of discrimination. Our world faces four major issues. Equality for all, sustainability, education and healthcare are the four pillars that need to be strengthened to save Mother Earth."

The project is a tribute to NASA's moon mission, which celebrated its golden jubilee in 2019.

Jafri has used an aerospace-grade aluminium gold plate as his canvas.

"We're talking -200 degrees Celsius, so it had to be fully resilient to lunar conditions and last eternally," said the artist.

Elon Musk, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), SpaceX, has roped in American sculptor Jeffrey Koons for a similar project - Jafri finds himself caught in a space art race with the American sculptor.

However, industry experts say Jafri's project — backed by Jeff Bezos, founder and executive chairman of Amazon — has a head start.

Bezos's space tourism company called Blue Origin, which hopes to operate a space station named "Orbital Reef" by the end of the decade, has developed the engine for the United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket. The rocket is a two-stage-to-orbit, heavy-lift launch vehicle, which the ULA has been developing since 2014. Its maiden flight is likely later this year.

The heart-shaped artwork will be placed on the moon's surface, triggering the release of a five-series non-fungible token (NFT) Charitable Collection.

An NFT is a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger, that can be sold and traded.

The original work will rest in the solitude of the moon, emanating energy back to the earth.

The landing site will become a world heritage landmark preserved forever.

Five NFTs will launch to commemorate each stage of the mission — from the rocket launch entering the stratosphere, the earth's circumnavigation, the moon sling-shot, the moon landing and the legacy of the eternal artwork on the moon.

Another 88 unique hearts will also fly to the moon as part of the painting.

It will be released to the world as the Jafri "Moonheart NFTs", and an auction will be held later to determine who keeps the main memento and 88 unique hearts. The funds raised will be ploughed back into charitable projects.

"Plans are afoot to place the artwork alongside NASA scientific payloads, coupled with other instruments and technologies," said the Oxford University graduate, who is related to the late Indian actor, Saeed Jaffrey. He also counts Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and second in the line of succession to the British throne, his close friend from his Eton College days over 35 years ago.

The artwork will be placed on the moon with the help of Selenian, a UAE-based startup that specialises in the curation of art in space.

How Jafri made history in 2021

Jafri, whose works were exhibited across the globe along with the late American artist, Andy Warhol, made history at a ballroom of the swanky Palm Jumeirah resort Atlantis Hotel — located on a man-made archipelago in Dubai — on March 24 last year amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

His artwork called The Journey of Humanity was sold for $62 (Dh227.73) million. It was the second most expensive painting ever sold at auction by a living artist.

The painting, which took him over 10 months to complete over several days that stretched over 20 hours, found an entry into the Guinness World Record for the largest art canvas.

The sprawling artwork, measuring over 17,000 square feet, was the same size as four NBA basketball courts.

Jafri's artwork was sold less than two weeks after an NFT by the digital artist Beeple fetched $69.3 (Dh254.55) million at Christie's.

The buyer of Jafri's creation was a French-Algerian businessman, who plans to build a museum in Dubai to house it.

Jafri generously donates most of his sales proceeds to charitable causes, particularly relating to children's welfare, conflict-hit victims and people of determination.

He has travelled to refugee camps in over 20 countries — from Darfur in Sudan to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Kenya, Uganda and Syria.

Though he has been a solo artist for most of his 20-year career, he recently started working with the New York and Dubai-based Leila Heller Gallery.

Heller's data shows that 10 works have been sold to date at prices ranging between $75,000 (over Dh275,000) to $2 million (Dh7.35 million).


The free-spirited and animated Jafri, who has emerged as the creative face of Dubai, counts Hollywood stars George Clooney. Leonardo DiCaprio, pop sensation Madonna, British billionaire Richard Branson and former US President Barack Obama among his collectors.

According to artnet.com, an art market website, Jafri and the French-Algerian businessman had met by chance at an opening at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris in 2019. The next year, the businessman was in Dubai shopping for a new villa and his broker advised him to view Jafri's painting at the Atlantis.

"I love art and collect many things but I don't have any knowledge about art — I just go with my feeling when I buy a work," the buyer was quoted by artnet.com.

For Jafri, reclusive buyers are a sure-fire way to make surreal and eye-popping creations that can power his insatiable quest for the art of giving to some of the most underprivileged people in the poorest places on earth.

A mission that has his childhood buddy Prince William's whole-heartedly supports.



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