Space art is intriguing a selection of artists who wish to claim their works beyond the depths of Earth. Artists need to consider not just the concept of their art but also how each piece will sustain the environment and temperature, as well as the mission of getting it to space. Thankfully, there are options to make space art happen, with more launches expected to come.
SpaceX x Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons and Elon Musk partnered to give collectors a chance to have their own pieces of space art. Koons developed the “Moon Phases” collection, which includes 125 stainless steel sculptures mirroring different lunar phases that will be sent to the moon via a SpaceX rocket. The mini-moon sculptures are approximately one inch in diameter. One sculpture will be installed on the moon, the other sculpture will remain on Earth, and a corresponding non-fungible token (NFT) featuring Jeff Koons’s signature will be available during the third quarter of 2023.
SpaceX x Mattel
Musk also signed a multi-year deal with Mattel to launch a line of SpaceX-inspired toys. The toy company said the selection will be available through Matchbox and Mattel Creations sometime in 2023.
“At SpaceX, we believe that a future in which humanity is out among the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one in which we are not,” said Brian Bjelde, a vice president at SpaceX, in a release.
Chad Knight x Uplift Aerospace
Uplift Aerospace helped 3D artist Chad Knight send his work to space. On April 22, 2023, the payload came with two 3D-printed silver figurines by Knight, with the selection curated by art collector CL7. It launched aboard a suborbital rocket in Mojave, California.
✨Stellar news!✨@muratpak has acquired both Venus & Mars from the “Intergalactic Genesis” auction by @ChadKnight on @niftygateway curated by @cl7official, a celebration of human’s exploration of space🚀.
Our community continues to celebrate our first-ever space trip with the… pic.twitter.com/Zpex1RsHvI
— Space+ 🚀 (@_space_plus) May 3, 2023
Sacha Jafri x NASA
Dubai-based artist Sacha Jafri’s We Rise Together – By the Light of the Moon sees his work as part of NASA’s Artemis program. The work depicts a male and female surrounded by 88 hearts and is engraved onto a gold alloy, which helps protect the art on the moon.
As per the press release, the piece “aims to reconnect humanity to: ourselves, each other, our creator, and ultimately to ‘The Soul of the Earth’. With figures entwined in love, reaching for a newfound understanding of unity and consequential hope, as they embark on their journey of exploration from our inhabited planet to our uninhabited moon.”
According to CNN, it was to take flight via the United Launch Alliance rocket (which runs on engines developed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin) and premiere at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in March 2023. Jafri said the mission would take between 5 days and two weeks to reach the moon, based on conditions.
Jafri told The Telegraph: “The moon is one of the most extreme environments imaginable…It’s on a gold-covered aluminum plate which is pretty much indestructible. I had to use a laser to etch the design.”
(As noted by the BBC, “Every 18.6 years the Moon’s orbit wobbles between a maximum and minimum of plus or minus 5 degrees relative to the Earth’s equator.”)
Eyal Gever x International Space Station
In 2017, Israeli artist Eyal Gever’s #Laugh project invited people to download an app and record their laughter, with the entry with the most likes after one month to be 3D-printed on the International Space Station (ISS).
“The earliest cave paintings were of human hands which were a way of proclaiming and celebrating the presence of humanity,” said Gever, adding, “#Laugh will be the 21st century version of that – a mathematically-accurate encapsulation of human laughter, simply floating through space, waiting to be discovered.”
Tavares Strachan x LACMA Art+Technology Lab
In 2018, New York-based artist Tavares Strachan’s ENOCH project honoured Robert Henry Lawrence Jr., the first African American astronaut selected for any national space program. Collaborating with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Strachan’s 24-carat gold urn sculpture “circled the Earth for three years in a sun-synchronous orbit before re-entering on December 21, 2021,” according to LACMA. The 3U satellite launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Amoako Boafo x Blue Origin
Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo’s 2021 project Suborbital Triptych series sent three paintings to outer space: Self Portrait with Pink Tulips (2021), Shormeh’s Gold Earrings (2021), and White and Gold Head Wrap (2021). The launch was done via Blue Origin’s New Shepard, the company’s reusable suborbital rocket. Boafo is the first artist from the African continent to have art in space.
“A self-portrait looking up to the skies best explains what this project means to me. I grew up knowing the sky was the limit, and now I get to work on a project that goes beyond the sky as we know it. This signifies what is possible when creatives like myself are given a chance to not only break the glass ceiling but go above it,” said Boafo in a press release.
Bill Taub x NASA
Check out this new offering, Photographing America’s First Astronauts: Project Mercury through the Lens of Bill Taub, by J.L Pickering and John Bisney. The book includes 600 never-before-seen images by NASA’s inaugural staff photographer, Bill Taub, who snapped the daily musings of the Mercury astronauts from 1959 to 1963. The foreword is by iconic NASA flight director Eugene Kranz.
Source: Purdue University Press
Xu Bing x iSpace
Renowned Chinese artist Xu Bing’s 2021 exhibit, Xu Bing: Art Beyond the Kármán Line, was held at the Red Brick Art Museum in Beijing. The exhibit included archives, pictures, videos, and other artworks that delved into the history of space art. It also honoured the Xu Bing Tianshu Rocket, which saw the artist working alongside iSpace, a privately run Chinese space rocket company, to launch his own art rocket into space. The launch took place in early February 2021, and it was influenced by Xu’s Book from the Sky over 30 years ago. The book includes four volumes and came with four thousand invented characters.
Running from July 7 to September 10, Seedlings and Offsprings highlights the works of artist Xin Liu. Expect to see a selection of mixed-media sculptures inspired by life cycles like egg freezing, research “into subglacial lakes in Antarctica and ice-covered oceans deep beneath the surface of moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn,” and the exploration of the unknown.
Also on display is Liu’s Living Distance (2019-2020) three-part project, which includes an outer space performance, video installation, and virtual reality addition. Liu sent her wisdom tooth to the International Space Station, which can be relived via VR and potato seeds into Earth’s lower orbit in March 2020. The latter was done in collaboration with Lucia Monge. Several of the space-loving potatoes will be grown and harvested in the garden at Pioneer Works, which will also come with educational sessions.