Three portraits, painted by Viennese artist Amoaco Boafo, were launched from Texas into space. They floated in the void and returned to Earth just eleven minutes later.
The launch of the Suborbital Triptych (2021) is the result of a collaboration between Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin and aerospace technology company Uplift AeroSpace. The three portraits were painted directly onto a portion of the Blue Origin rocket and painted in space-grade paints.
Amoako Boafo’s paintings “Self-portrait with pink flowers, Tulips, Gold Schorme earrings, and a white and gold headband” depicts Boafo, his mother, and the mother of his close friend. Upon their return, all the paintings were restored and looked in good condition.
Why is art in space? Josh Haynes, CEO of Uplift, argues that engaging creatives is an important step in the development of a multi-planetary economy. Uplift is focused on integration with artists who have the ability to truly communicate with humanity.
This recent project with Amoako Boafo has become a unique way for the general public to become familiar with space, as there is an aspect of space exploration that is very difficult for the general public to understand.
The so-called “billionaire space race” between Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson, all of whom are trying to take over the celestial market, including space tourism, has drawn negative attention. Critics of these efforts have pointed out that the resources and funds used for space travel by the three billionaires are best used to address the ongoing climate crisis or to ease the burden of a global pandemic.
More recently, when Bezos went into space in mid-July, the trip sparked public outrage and was seen as a dull display of his wealth. Ahead of the launch, more than 150,000 people signed a petition requesting that Bezos stay in space and never return.
But with projects like Suborbital Triptych, aerospace companies hope to generate a more positive public opinion. The paintings flew on the Bezos rocket, the New Shepherd, which Amazon’s multi-billionaire hopes will become the vehicle that tourists take on their own space trips.
Uplift helps companies like Blue Origin create value for these new business goals. Before launching art in space, Uplift received a question from high school students in Ghana who were knowledgeable about the project.
They asked why space exploration is important to the average Ghanaian. Hanes replied that space exploration allows the production of knowledge, and knowledge is power. He also added that in this way they could change the future for the better. And from space, one can see the Earth and understand how precious it is and that we must preserve it.
However, while Uplift AeroSpace is promoting space exploration as a means of supporting conservation efforts, the company says they have not provided any data on the launch’s environmental impact.
And New Shepherd would fly whether it had paintings or not, as Blue Origin constantly sends machines into space to test New Shepherd. Uplift AeroSpace notes that while art has been launched into space before (in fact, some works have even landed on the Moon and Mars), Suborbital Triptych represents the first time Amoako Boafo’s Paintings, an African artist’s work has crossed Karman’s line into space.
Uplift hopes this will be the first of many Uplift Art x Space programs. It’s unclear which artist will represent the next stage in Jeff Bezos’ new venture.
By launching art into space, artists reflect on the experience of life on our planet. On the timeline of human history, we study outer space in just a few decades. But long before we launched satellites from our atmosphere, artists imagined escaping from our humble planet to rush into the heavens.
Artists continue to be instrumental catalysts in the quest to conquer the unknown because they represent the future before it happens. Today, artists are joining the space race by imagining a mysterious vacuum outside our atmosphere as the next space of a museum or gallery.