Sacha Jafri was traveling in the United Arab Emirates in April, when COVID-19 closures were beginning to block avenues of travel. The British citizen wound up stuck in Dubai when the UAE locked down travel five months ago. Unable to remain idle, the artist worked out an arrangement with Atlantis, the Palm, Dubai’s legendary luxury hotel. Since the hotel has been unable to use its enormous Atlantis Ballroom, a space meant to seat 500, Jafri turned the space into an artist’s studio for a massive undertaking.
Titled “The Journey of Humanity,” Jafri’s abstract painting is over 21,000-square-feet, around the size of two full-sized football fields. Painted almost entirely by Jafri alone, it has taken nearly five months so far. When he finishes it, it will be the world’s largest canvas painting.
Jafri describes his style, which consists of intensely chaotic and colorful abstract patterns made with both traditional brushwork and drip-painting, as “magical realism.” He has works in the collections of Barack Obama and other celebrities.
“Journey,” which is overwhelming in the way it fills the ballroom like a graffiti carpet, is divided into eight “portals” based on which colors are dominant. And at the center of each portal, Jafri has featured a piece of art created by a child from somewhere around the world, submitted over the past few months through his website.
When finished, Jafri intends to cut “Journey” into 60 pieces, each approximately 10’x10′, frame them, and sell them in a Dubai art auction in December. He hopes to raise $30,000,000, with the aim of donating it to Humanity United, an umbrella charity supporting children in poverty.
“Each person that buys a panel will (not only) own a piece of the largest painting ever created in the world,” said Jafri, “but they’ll own a piece of history, because what we’re doing with that money is huge.”