SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk, left, shakes hands with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa after announcing him as the first private passenger on a trip around the moon, in Hawthorne, California.
Photo: Chris Carlson/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Billionaire Art Collector Teams Up With Elon Musk to Take Artists to the Moon

Maezawa hopes the trip will inspire artists to create work that reflects on their experience
Maezawa and Musk. Photo: Twitter

With a series of sensational purchases at auction under his belt and a major museum in the pipeline, Japanese billionaire art collector and entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa is preparing for a new adventure: a trip to the moon.

“Finally,” Maezawa told journalists at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Monday, “I can tell you that I choose to go to the moon.”

The 42-year-old founder of online retail fashion site Zozotown has purchased every single seat aboard SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), with the journey scheduled for 2023. As part of an unprecedented art project titled Dear Moon, he plans to invite a band of around six artists from a variety of fields to accompany him, hoping the experience will move them to create unique works.

“These artists will be asked to create something after they return to Earth, and these masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us,” he said at the press conference, according to Time. He wants the artists to see “the moon up close, and the earth in full view, and create work to reflect their experience.”

“I hope this is really seen as a very positive thing,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk at the press event, “and something that people are very excited about.”

Maezawa with his record-breaking Basquiat purchase. Photo: Twitter

The journey marks the first time a customer is paying for the experience of riding into space on the 348-foot-tall BFR, SpaceX’s next-generation rocket. Musk first announced the idea of the rocket in 2016 at the International Astronautical Congress, a space conference that takes place every fall in Guadalajara, Mexico.

This isn’t the first time Maezawa, whose Twitter handle is @yousuck2020, has made headlines. Well-known in the art world, Maezawa was catapulted into the limelight in 2016, when he bought a 1982 work by Jean-Michel Basquiat for $57.3 million from Adam Lindemann, setting a new record for the artist at auction.

Early last year, the collector, who, according to Forbes, has a net worth of $2.9 billion, went on another flashy buying spree, spending $98 million in two days and acquiring seven works by artists such as Bruce Nauman and Richard Prince. The streak continued when he purchased Basquiat’s Untitled, from 1982, one of his iconic skulls coarsely rendered against a vibrant blue background. Sold for $110.5 million, the painting broke the artist’s auction record again.

SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket. Photo: Space X

“I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” Maezawa said in an Instagram post revealing his identity. “When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible.”

Rather than hiding the work, Maezawa announced plans to sponsor an international tour. Earlier this year, it was displayed at the Brooklyn Museum and the Seattle Art Museum. He also has plans to open his own art museum in Chiba, Japan, which will feature works from his collection, including pieces by Alexander Calder, Willem de Kooning, and Roy Lichtenstein.

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