Koons Landing! The Artist’s Mini-Sculptures Have Made It to the Moon

The artworks also exist down here on earth in the form of NFTs.

Odysseus passes over the near side of the Moon after entering lunar orbit insertion on February 21. Photo courtesy of Intuitive Machines via NASA.

A series of small sculptures by Jeff Koons have been left on the surface of the Moon by the Odysseus lander, the first spacecraft built in the United States to land on Earth’s only natural satellite since Apollo 17 in 1972.

The uncrewed lander was expected to touch down on the Moon around 4 p.m. EST on February 22 but was delayed after flight controllers chose to exercise an additional orbiting before starting the mission landing sequence, according to Intuitive Machines, the company that built the spacecraft.

It ultimately touched down around 6:23 p.m. EST, according to NASA. The lander’s commercial payload included instruments to support NASA with future human exploration of the Moon under the Artemis program, in addition to Koons’s sculptures, collectively titled Moon Phases,

“We’ve landed!” Koons said in a post on Instagram. “Congratulations to Intuitive Machines and SpaceX for their astounding achievement of realizing this historic private mission to the Moon!  I am so honored to have my Moon Phases artworks be part of the Odysseus mission!”

Jeff Koons and Chantelle Baier with Jeff Koons: Moon Phases. Photo: Chris Farina.

The artwork is a group of 125 mini-sculptures of the moon in various phases, each inscribed with the names of influential people throughout history, from Hippocrates to Andy Warhol. The tiny works are stored in a cube measuring six-inches wide on each side and weighing about 2.6 pounds.

The project also marks Koons’s first foray into NFTs, which have been minted with images of each of the mini-sculptures. Those NFTs will be sold by Pace Verso, the gallery’s digital art division, along with larger physical sculptures corresponding to those in space, according to the project’s website.

In another post on Instagram, the artist celebrated his work as the “first authorized” artwork to be placed on the Moon. But Koons was blasted in the comments section of his post by other artists, such as Josh Leidolf, who created 10 pieces from his “Love Is In Our Genes” series for the Odysseus mission. Other commenters criticized Koons for “showmanship” and others who questioned the authority of whomever allowed his sculptures to be the first “authorized” works on the lunar surface.

Koons—and the others who participated in the mission—are not the first to be fascinated with the idea of sending his art into space. In an early move, the crew of Apollo 15 placed Belgian artist Paul Van Hoeydonck’s aluminum sculpture, Fallen Astronaut (1971), on the moon. Beginning in the 1980s, other projects, such as NASA’s Getaway Special program and “Ars Ad Astra,” have also embarked on creating and exhibiting art in space.

More recently, Eduardo Kac, who spent nearly four decades trying to realize his vision to send art to the Moon, finally did so in January. His holographic poem Ágora was sent into deep space onboard a Celestis Enterprise Flight.

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