Dubai: World’s largest art canvas raises Dh227m for Covid-hit kids

British artist Sacha Jafri (left) and  Andre Abdoune, who bought his artwork for $62 million at auction. — Reuters
British artist Sacha Jafri (left) and Andre Abdoune, who bought his artwork for $62 million at auction. — Reuters

Dubai - Sacha Jafri's record-breaking project, The Journey of Humanity, was auctioned in Dubai


Suneeti Ahuja Kohli

Published: Tue 23 Mar 2021, 10:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 24 Mar 2021, 6:28 AM

The world’s largest art canvas, The Journey of Humanity, made by Sacha Jafri has been sold for a whopping Dh227.75 million ($62 million) at an auction in Dubai.

The British contemporary artist had been working on this back-breaking masterpiece at Atlantis, The Palm for most of last year and was hoping to cut the painting into 70 pieces and sell at six auctions in different countries over nine months. The Journey of Humanity took about eight months, 20 hours each day for Jafri to complete. The final piece is over 17,000 square-foot in size, which is equivalent to two football fields put together.

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World's largest painting now complete in Dubai

The plan was to raise Dh110 million to support children and youth around the world affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but he achieved one of art world’s greatest feats in one night by selling it in entirety at its maiden auction in Dubai on Monday. The painting was bought by Andre Abdoune, chief executive of Altius Gestion International Holding.

“I was moved by the work, dedication of Sacha Jafri, and the whole intention of helping children across the world through the money raised by this painting. If the $62 million that I have spent on this painting can help and bring smile to even one child, I will consider this investment a success. The Covid pandemic cannot take away our children; they need our help. We need projects like this, and we need more people to invest in our children's dreams,” said Andre Abdoune.

“This is the first step. I believe in the words of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, that nothing is impossible. I plan to build a museum in Dubai in local architecture and instal this painting there for others to get inspired from this. We just have to follow the limitless love of humanity and this painting embodies that,” added Abdoune.

The finished painting was at display at Atlantis for four weeks before it was auctioned on Monday. In total, it raised a little over $65 million — $62 million from the painting and the rest from the auction of Jafri’s memorabilia that includes the brushes used for painting this canvas and the clothes worn by the artist during the project.

Dubai Cares will route the funds raised to four charities including Unicef, Unesco, The Global Gift Foundation and Dubai Cares for different programmes aimed at addressing issues related to children’s digital access to connectivity and learning, as well as healthcare and sanitation.

“We're hoping to save over 200 million children's lives, but also give these children a chance and opportunity to change the world around them. That is the goal. We want to provide education for all children of the world. We want to give the children from all over the world an opportunity of an education through the internet. So, we aim to provide the internet to every single one of the poorest communities of the world for the first time. The biggest divide in the world at the moment is those with the internet and those without,” says Jafri.

“The project will take two years, but we will put the Internet and every single one of the poorest communities in the world. We then bring an educational platform through the Internet which we've developed with our relationships with the ministries of Education around the world during the project and under the guidance of Dr Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares and Member of its Board of Directors,” Jafri added.

Jafri’s home is the UK, but he spends his time in New York, Dubai, London and Singapore. “I was here and then lockdown happened, which is when I got this idea of painting the biggest canvas for charity. There aren't many other places in the world where I could have done this and got the support in the way I got. Dubai was the perfect place to do it, but it wasn't planned this way; it just happened.”

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