Dubai: Meet the men who sent art to the moon – News

Four like-minded, successful people come together for a common cause – the art of giving back and saving our planet – to fuel a previously unknown concept of conserving art in space



Published: Thu 10 March 2022, 22:26

Dubai became the center of the artistic explosion at the turn of the new millennium following the emirate’s breathtaking growth as a financial center and ease of doing business. Consider this, in 2010, Leila Taghinia-Milani Heller – the founder and president of her eponymous art gallery, Leila Heller, which specializes in representing artists from the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia – East and Turkey – was having lunch with Sheikha Lulu Al Sabah at the Americano in Chelsea, London, when she told the Kuwaiti art dealer she was looking for a gallery in Dubai.

In November 2015, the expatriate Iranian art dealer’s cherished dream came true after teaming up with James Khazaei on this ambitious project.

The 14,000 square foot outpost on Alserkal Avenue has become Dubai’s pioneering cultural district. It is not only the largest gallery on Alserkal Avenue, but perhaps the largest in the Persian Gulf and South Asia. Heller’s dream came true in part thanks to James Khazaei, a well-known collector of Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Western art.

Khazaei says he became interested in the arts because of his father, who was an antique collector and property developer. Khazaei, a management graduate and investment banker in 2002, had come to Dubai for a two-week vacation. But fate had other plans. By a simple twist of fate, he met Mohamed Alabbar, the founder of Emaar Properties.

Alabbar, who is known for his keen eye for talent, convinced Khazaei to take on a leadership role at Emaar Properties as the Dubai-based property group embarked on an ambitious journey to develop the city center, including iconic properties such as the Dubai Mall and Burj. Khalifa. “I had a wonderful time with Emaar. I learned a lot from Mr. Alabbar. He’s a real visionary,” says Khazaei.

The Briton’s passion for sales and rentals landed him a lucrative offer from Abu Dhabi-based property group Aldar Properties in 2005. He had a remarkable stint with the company until 2009, where he oversaw marquee projects, such as sales and development. from Yas Island and Marina, luxury properties on Al Raha Beach, Ferrari World and Warner Bros, an indoor theme park.

Khazaei’s love for all things art – especially those belonging to the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe – led him to come up with the concept of Selenian amid the pandemic. of Covid-19. Selanian is a UAE-based startup specializing in art conservation in space. The startup’s goal is to be the gateway to space for physical and digital art assets, through artworks, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), tokenization and the metaverse.

He enlisted Sacha Jafri – a contemporary British artist, based in Dubai and known for creating the world’s largest canvas painting Journey of Humanity last year and a prominent philanthropist – his London-based friend, art collector and businessman Shahram Yazdani and Pavlo Tanasyuk, founder and CEO of Spacebit, a private British company developing space robotics technology for lunar and planetary missions since 2014, like the other co-founders of Selanian.

“We have a group of four like-minded people who believe in the art of giving. Selanian is an alternative way of interpreting the moon. It is also the art of giving back to community and society” , explains Khazaei.

“Our main goal is to bring artists from all over the world together on one platform. We would like it to become a forum to educate humanity as a whole,” he adds. The art of giving is at the heart of Selanian’s goal Khazaei says he’s spent 75% of his time on the project over the past 12 months.

So what was the inspiration behind this revolutionary concept? “The lockdown restrictions imposed by Covid-19 have made me more aware of our environment and the ecosystem. Mental health became a major challenge during these difficult times,” he recalls.

“We have seen the world in disarray and as much as we are currently doing for humanity in the world, if we are true to ourselves, we realize that we are only scratching the surface. Selanian is a unique concept whose the time has come,” says Jafri, while endorsing Khazaei’s initiative.

The artist’s next project – and perhaps the most ambitious project – is a heart-shaped artwork, titled We Rise Together – with moonlight will be sent to Earth’s only satellite later this year. as part of the very first artistic mission.

“The byte-sized heart will contain two intertwined human figures. It was a labor of love as we had to go through up to 40 iterations, and Pavlo (Tanasyuk) can attest to that,” says Jafri, who has used an aerospace aluminum-gold plate as a canvas for the exquisite artwork.

“We racked our brains for several sessions. Selanian’s mission statement is simple. Our goal is to make a difference for our planet. We are aware that only a few technologies can go to the moon. So we thought long and hard about how this could become a reality. First, we thought, is this achievable? So, can we have an impact on humanity? Or can we leave a legacy? Once we were convinced of our abilities, we moved forward,” explains Khazaei.

Once the artwork reaches the moon, the landing will become a world heritage monument that will be eternally preserved. Khazaei says the cutting-edge project also exudes a human touch. “There is more to a space art race as others try to follow suit. We are pushing the boundaries by integrating art with space technology and there are exciting projects to be announced later in the year. year on other missions that we have secured.

Jafri’s mission – in collaboration with Spacebit, Astrobotic and Nasa, through its commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative – has a head start, despite swirling talk of a space race . “A percentage of funds raised through the Moon Mission will go to different charities that focus on equality, sustainability, education and health. The painted hearts, dubbed by Jafri “Moonheart NFT”, will be broadcast in the world in the form of NFTs or digital assets, commemorating every step of the mission,” adds Khazaei.

Selanian, who is keen on spreading good humor over love and empathy, hopes to find strengths in the possible mission to the moon.

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