Japanese entrepreneur and Top 200 art collector Yusaku Maezawa has announced several artists, including BIGBANG member T.O.P. and DJ Steve Aoki will be among the crew members on a week-long mission to the moon on a Space X rocket.
In 2018, the billionaire founder of Japan’s largest online fashion retailer purchased all the seats aboard the first civilian mission to the Moon scheduled to take place next year on a Starship rocket. Last March, Maezawa announced plans to choose eight crew members.
In his announcement video, Maezawa said more than 1 million people from around the world submitted applications, with the screening and selection process taking about a year and a half.
In addition to superstar DJ Steve Aoki, BIGBANG rapper T.O.P., space YouTuber Tim Dodd, choreographer Yemi A.D., documentary filmmaker Brendan Hall, and actor Dev D. Joshi, Maezawa chose photographers Rhiannon Adam and Karim Iliya.
An analog view
“I think it was in the middle of the pandemic, and I was craving an adventure,” the Irish photographer explained for why she applied to be part of Maezawa’s crew. “And this seemed like a perfect opportunity.”
Adam’s work is a mixture of art photography and social documentary, covering issues like climate change, social injustice, outsider communities, and abuse of power. She frequently uses Polaroid and instant photography.
“I like the nostalgic pieces she creates with the Polaroid camera,” Maezawa said in his announcement video. “When people go to space, they usually use high-spec cameras to capture crystal clear images, but I’m excited to find out what her take on space will be like.”
Adam already has experience documenting a remote location. Her project on the South Pacific island Pitcairn and its 42 British residents debuted at the Francesca Maffeo Gallery in Spring. It won the Meitar Award for Excellence in Photography in 2020. The resulting book, Big Fence / Pitcairn Island was a Photography Book Award finalist at the 2022 Kraszna Krausz Foundation book awards.
Adam was also the resident curator and co-founder of Gallery One and a Half, a photography gallery in Hackney, London, until 2015. She is based in London and the United States. If the mission goes forward, Adam will be the first Irish person in space, which she called “an incredible honor”.
An underwater perspective
Iliya is an Iceland-based photographer, filmmaker, and whale swimming guide. His nature and underwater photography and video work focuses on threatened species. In 2018, Iliya won a Hassalblad Masters Award for his photo of a baby humpback whale off the islands of Vava’u in Tonga.
“In my work, I’m often going to places that are very hard to reach that most people don’t get to see or experience,” he said. “It is a huge obligation that I feel to document this trip in the best possible way.”
A notable art collector behind it all
Prior to his space mission, the billionaire founded Japan’s largest online fashion retailer, Zozotown, in May 1998. Maezawa has also spent stratospheric sums collecting art, and has been a member of the ARTnews Top 200 Collectors list every year since 2016.
During a two-day stretch in 2016, Maezawa bought seven works—including Bruce Nauman’s Eat War (1986), Jeff Koons’s Lobster (2007), and Alexander Calder’s Sumac 17 (1955)—for a combined $98 million at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. In a statement afterward, Maezawa announced plans to share his new trophies by putting them on public display at his Contemporary Art Foundation in Tokyo. The next year, he spent $110 million on a record-setting Jean-Michel Basquiat in May 2017 at a Sotheby’s auction. Earlier this year, Maezawa made headlines again after he sold a different Basquiat painting that he had purchased for $57.3 million in 2016. At Phillips, it sold for $85 million with fees—nearly $30 million more than Maezawa had initially paid.