DUBAI: Sacha Jafri is one of the most famous artists in the world, and not only because of his obvious talent. The 45-year-old has a knack for doing things that have never been done before. Later this year, he is expected to become the first person to have his works exhibited on the moon. It holds the Guinness World Record for the largest canvas art (the 18,000 square foot “Voyage of Mankind”). And he would be, it seems, the youngest artist to have done a 20-year retrospective world tour.
“I’m not trying to do it on purpose,” Jafri told Arab News. ” It’s the opposite. The files come to me. It’s quite spiritual, what I do: I tap into something magical, I borrow a moment and something beautiful happens. And then someone points out that no one has ever done this before.
We talk about the unveiling of Jafri’s latest project, “The Art Maze” – another first (the first art exhibition held in a bespoke steel maze) – on the helipad of the Burj Al-Arab hotel in Dubai , 212 meters above sea level. . The artwork celebrates 50 years of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It’s a hot March afternoon and the sun is beating down. Jafri, who is currently based in Dubai, had a grueling six-week schedule and spent the past 28 hours painting non-stop. But he is still alive, just as passionate about his art as he is about the causes for which he paints.
“It’s a problem when children don’t learn history; they don’t know where we come from,” he says. “They are spending more and more time online. As a father of two children, I am worried. This project will raise awareness of our beautiful planet, I think. And what better way to do that than to paint the UNESCO sites?
As with most of Jafri’s projects, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the 50 Art Maze paintings will be donated to UNESCO. Jafri began associating himself with humanitarian projects after a trip to Darfur in 2004 with George Clooney, while filming the documentary “Sand and Sorrow”. This trip inspired him to visit 42 refugee camps around the world and raise millions of dollars for these camps.
Described as a pioneer of magical realism, Jafri’s collectors include Bill Gates, the United Arab Emirates Royal Family, the British Royal Family, Richard Branson, George Clooney, Will Smith, Madonna, David Beckham, Rafael Nadal and a host of other world celebrities. His work has been featured in most major international art institutions and has raised over $140 million for charities around the world through his art. ‘Journey of Humanity’ alone raised a staggering $62 million at auction last year, with proceeds going to several charities and government bodies including Dubai Cares, UNICEF, UNESCO and the Global Gift Foundation.
“We Rise Together with the Light of the Moon,” which will be placed on the lunar surface later this year, also has a strong humanitarian aspect. The funds it will raise are pledged to charities that focus on equality for all, sustainability, education and health.
“If you ask me, we don’t really need an artwork on the moon, but it’s a huge opportunity to raise money for charity,” Jafri says. “Ultimately, it’s about reconnecting humanity, connecting to each other, to our creator, and to the soul of the earth.”
The heart-shaped artwork depicts two intertwined human figures and will be placed on the moon in association with NASA as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Initiative (NASA CLPS). The launch will trigger the release of a five-coin NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) charity collection and will also see the launch of Jafri’s cryptonaught series. While making his foray into the world of digital art, he once again became the world record holder (most open edition NFTs sold in less than a minute, with $2 million sold in 45 seconds) .
But even as he incorporates technology into his work, Jafri is quick to warn of its pitfalls.
“Our future is human,” he says. “Technology can be used to help humanity, but it must not take over.”
Jafri has become one of the most bankable investments in the art world. And, as he explains, there are probably few artists who have immersed themselves so deeply in their work. He has been proven to go into a trance-like state when painting, and when he struggled in school as a child with severe dyslexia, art was, he says, the “one thing that made sense” – something teachers at Britain’s most prestigious public school, Eton (which he attended at the same time as Prince William), thankfully recognised, providing Jafri with his own portacabin studio. “It changed my life,” he says.
Brain scans have shown that Jafri enters a theta state when he paints, meaning he is extremely relaxed and tasks become almost automatic. Being so involved in his work means he often doesn’t eat or sleep for days on end when working. During the creation of “Journey of Humanity”, he often worked in 17-hour shifts and did not sleep for four days. (He ended up with herniated discs in his spine and dislocated ankles.) And, as mentioned, before “The Art Maze” was unveiled, he painted continuously for 28 hours.
“For an artist, it’s not the finished product or the journey that counts, but the way he lives his life. If you don’t live in grace, then even if you create something beautiful, it has no meaning or emotion,” he says. “It’s the intention with which you create that remains.
“The point of art is that it is the soul of a human being who has surrendered and connected to something greater than themselves. As soon as we engage the ego and as we become important, the magic ends. That’s why I can say that I love what I’m doing — because it’s not me. I just feel honored to have been part of the process,” continues -he.
“Art is really two (things): love and empathy,” he concludes. “When these two combine, it’s when something happens that changes the world.”