Liftoff! Jeff Koons has announced that he will send a group of new sculptures to the moon later this year. Works by the world's most expensive living artist are set to reach the earth's only natural satellite in July and will remain there in perpetuity.
They are being sent on board a lunar lander known as Nova C, developed by the private American company Intuitive Machines. The spacecraft, which will be launched at the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, will touch down on Oceanus Procellarum, a region of the near side of the moon (the hemisphere facing the Earth). It takes an average spacecraft around three days to travel the 240,000 miles between the Earth and the moon.
Upon their landing, the sculptures will be permanently housed in a transparent, thermally coated cube. Further details of the works will be revealed via a dedicated website in the coming weeks, but only one Nova C lander carrying the works will be sent. With a load capacity of 100kg and measuring two-by-three meters, it is therefore unlikely that Koons's lunar-bound works will be as large as his most famous sculptures.
Alongside this lunar expedition, Koons will also release his first group of NFTs as part of the project Jeff Koons: Moon Phases. The artist announced his intention to enter the NFT game last year in Munich, but was tightlipped about what this might entail. The NFTs will be offered via his gallery Pace's NFT platform Pace Verso, and will each correspond to a physical sculpture. Proceeds from "one of the first NFT sales" will be donated to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, according to an official release.
“I wanted to create a historically meaningful NFT project rooted in humanistic and philosophical thought," Koons says in a statement. "Space explorations have given us a perspective of our ability to transcend worldly constraints. These ideas are central to my NFT project, which can be understood as a continuation and celebration of humanity’s aspirational accomplishments within and beyond our own planet.”
Pace president and chief executive Marc Glimcher describes the project as "one of the most ambitious and momentous endeavours the gallery has ever presented," adding that it "confirms Koons's legacy as one of the world’s greatest creative visionaries."
The project is being touted as the "first authorised works to be placed on the surface of the moon," according to Intuitive Machines vice president Jack Fischer, although who has authorised the works remains unclear. He adds that the location of their landing will become a Lunar Landing Heritage site—areas of the moon deemed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) and affiliated partners as historically significant, such as the site of the first moon landing by Apollo 11. The protection of these sites was passed by the US Senate in 2019 during the Trump administration and signed in by the former president in December 2020.
However, Koons is by no means the first artist to act upon his lunar ambitions. Earlier this year the Dubai-based painter Sacha Jafri announced he was sending a work to the moon, which he described as the “first official artwork on the moon”. It is unclear what the artist means by "official". Moreover, both these claims of being the first works of art on the moon are undermined by the artist Paul van Hoeydonck, whose aluminium sculpture was placed on the moon in 1971. And in turn, even he could be bested by the unconfirmed presence of a ceramic tile on the moon, which has been etched by the likes of Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg.
A female artist has yet to express significant interest in sending a work of art to the moon.