Seven months, 1,065 paint brushes, 6,300 litres of paint and $62 million dollars – Sacha Jafri has pulled off one of the art world’s greatest feats with the sale of his record-breaking canvas The Journey of Humanity.
From April until September, the British contemporary artist used the ballroom of Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm to make the world’s largest canvas – officially certified by Guinness World Record – measuring 1,800 square metres and spanning more than two football fields placed end to end.
The finished piece, which has been on display at the hotel over the past few weeks, was cut into 70 pieces and was set to be sold across four auctions this year with the hopes of raising $30 million for charity. However, the piece was sold in its entirety to Andre Abdoune, chief executive of Altius Gestion International Holding, during an auction in Dubai on Monday for a staggering $62 million.
Video footage from the auction, held in the room where the artwork was created, shows the moment the hammer came down on the most expensive artwork ever sold in the UAE.
“This gentleman here is helping to make dreams come true, this gentleman here is helping to make history, this gentleman here is going to be the talk of the town,” the auctioneer says.
An emotional Jafri can be seen jumping onto his table and holding his head in disbelief, before going to embrace Abdoune.
“It was my dream in my life to do something amazing for my children, for my father,” Abdoune said in a statement following the sale. “I talked with Sacha and I discovered the investment and love he put into this painting was so amazing.
“All my life I was aiming to help children. When I was a child, I had nothing to eat. Now I have something to eat. We all have to do something. Every dollar can mean something. If we do it together, we give hope to these children and their future. The UAE shows us the way, we have to follow it. The impossible is possible. I want to say that this is just the first step for ‘Humanity Inspired’.”
The funds will be split between Dubai Cares, Unicef, Unesco, Global Gift Foundation, as well as the Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence and the Ministry of Education in the UAE.
One of the programmes to benefit will be Unicef’s Giga project, an initiative launched last year alongside the International Telecommunication Union with the aim of connecting every school in the world to the internet.
Jafri, who lives in Dubai, spent 20 hours a day creating the work. To help fill the canvas, the artist invited children from around the world to send in their drawings themed around isolation and connection, which were then used for the first layer of the painting.
The final version contains more than 300 layers of paint. The finished work was unveiled on Thursday, February 25 by Sheikh Nahayan Mubarak Al Nahayan, UAE Cabinet Member, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, and Dr Tariq Al Gurg, chief executive at Dubai Cares.
Jafri is no stranger to using his work to raise funds for charity, having raised more than $60 million already over the course of his 20-year career. He has acted as a long-time ambassador for the Global Gift Foundation, which is run by Maria Bravo and Eva Longoria. His work has previously been auctioned to benefit the Start Foundation in Dubai, La Pegasus Polo Centre in northern India and the mental health initiative Heads Together, run by the UK’s Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, among other causes. His collectors are starrier than most artists could ever dream of.
This includes former US president Barack Obama, members of the British royal family, Sir Richard Branson, Sir Paul McCartney, David Beckham, George Clooney and Longoria herself, according to Jafri’s bio.
Updated: March 23, 2021 09:47 AM