Japanese retail billionaire and art collector Yusaku Maezawa has chosen the eight individuals – including two photographers – who will accompany him on a space voyage around the moon next year. The six-day mission, called dearMoon, will take place aboard Starship, a rocket being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, which has yet to make its first orbital test flight.
Maezawa’s lunar orbit crew includes London-based photographer Rhiannon Adam. On her Instagram feed, Adam calls the space initiative “the ultimate artist residency [which] will likely change the way we feel about everything we experience going forward.”
According to her online biography, she attended Central Saint Martins in London. Adam’s work is heavily influenced by her “nomadic childhood spent by the sea”, while her projects span photography and social documentaries, focusing on “complex narratives related to climate change, social injustice, outsider communities”.
Adam tells ITV news: “I spend a lot of my life working with very remote communities and it felt like a natural thing to do, to apply to go into space and explore the most remote community ever, which we would be in space… I aim to create work that does justice to this transformative experience.” She is also the first queer woman to go into orbit, and says that there has been underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ people in space travel.
Other artists selected include photographer Karim Iliya who focuses on the natural world and documents whales, birds and other endangered species; the Czech artist and “multi-disciplinary creator” Yemi AD is also part of the space team. Maezawa released a video on YouTube outlining his choices. “They will gain a lot from this experience and I hope they will contribute to the planet, to humanity,” he says. According to CNN, Maezawa is paying an undisclosed amount for the trip and said he will take his passengers for free.
In 2017, Maezawa, who made his fortune in retail fashion, made headlines for acquiring Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1983) for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s New York. Maezawa tweeted in 2020: “I have a passion for collecting contemporary art, Japanese antiques, supercars, wine, etc. Some people know me because I bought JM Basquiat’s $110 million painting.”
According to ART newsMaezawa bought seven works—including Bruce Nauman’s Eat War (1986), Jeff Koons’s Lobster (2007), and Alexander Calder’s Sumac 17 (1955)—at Christie’s and Sotheby’s over two days in 2016.