Art has a way of thriving even in the most difficult times. For U.K. artist Sacha Jafri, inspiration came in the form of a painting that would help raise US$30 million to fund health and education initiatives for impoverished children around the world. But this isn’t just any painting: The Journey of Humanity is set to be the largest ever on canvas, spanning 1,980 square meters (21,300 square feet)—or roughly the size of two football pitches end-to-end.
To accommodate the project’s ambitious scale, Jafri converted the ballroom at the Atlantis The Palm hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates into what’s being billed as the largest art studio in the world. Painting 16 to 18 hours each day for more than six months, he’d applied 856 gallons as of early September—resulting in 200 to 300 layers of paint. And he’s using a variety of techniques to get the job done. He uses brushes, hands and feet. He creates drip patterns from his brush or by swinging cans from ropes suspended from the ballroom ceiling. He even allowed paint-covered dancers to perform on the canvas.
Jafri also invited young artists to submit drawings, sketches, collages or paintings showcasing their feelings about the pandemic. He incorporates prints of the children’s artwork, then paints to connect the individual images to the larger whole.
In one of his posts on Instagram, where he is providing regular progress updates, Jafri said he hopes the project can help inspire and empower all of humanity to “collectively embrace a new sense of humility; a more meaningful desire for a life of inclusion, empathy and love; and a more conscious way forward.”
“There is an opportunity for change, like never before,” the artist said.
Project partners UNESCO, UNICEF, Dubai Cares, Global Gift Foundation and several UAE government agencies are all helping build interest before the work is unveiled in November. The humungous canvas will then be split into 60 individually framed paintings to be auctioned the following month.
“It’s a hell of a challenge, and I quite like that,” he said. “It means that when I get out of it on the other side and I create it, it’s going to be the most unbelievable sense of achievement and fulfillment.”