How can an artist stay grounded while working exclusively on commission and at the highest level in the luxury car industry? This tension lies at the heart of Sacha Jafri’s new work.
When Sacha Jafri The huge painting Journey of Humanity sold for over €58 million in 2021, becoming the second most expensive painting by a living artist to go under the hammer at auction.
The works covered 1,595.76 square meters and were auctioned in 70 separate sections, all of which were purchased by Andre Abdoune, a Franco-Algerian businessman lives in Dubai.
Now, the artist has revealed that his latest project is a series of modified Rolls-Royce cars. This is the first project where Rolls-Royce has created a common brand. To this end, Jafri has created six customized Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II cars, each based on a different element of the universe.
Between a colossal artwork depicting humanity’s journey sold for millions to a single owner, and personalized luxury cars, the work of Jafri could be written off as part of the grotesque excesses of the art world.
Keep the same interests that remove masterpieces from public view Damian Hirst go and inspire Ruben Ostlund movies keep the arts industry afloat with elite works sold as decorative stock options.
“It’s sad, it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. And it is often destroyed by this ethos of treating it as a commodity and manipulating its value,” says Jafri, reflecting on the world of art.
Closing artistic divisions
Jafri doesn’t want his work kept in the same conversation. He donated the huge sum raised by Journey of Humanity to children’s charities.
Four new charities have been involved in the Rolls-Royce project. Bait El Baraka, Surgeons For Little Lives, The Beekeepers Foundation and Harmony House aim to improve people’s lives through education, housing, health and environmental sustainability.
As part of the project, Jafri created an NFT for each of the six unique Rolls-Royces. NFTs have a version of Jafri’s heart logo. If the owner decides to sell the NFT, 20 percent of the exchange price will be automatically placed in the charity’s digital wallet.
NFT’s premise is that its permanent place in the art market will enable charities to continue monetizing the project. That’s why Jafri dubbed the initiative “The Rolls-Royce That Keeps Giving.”
“This is where I think design really matters,” says Jafri. “I like the combination with the Rolls Royce because it is a luxury item. I hope this paves the way for others to develop similar models where you can take a luxury item for the few and actually benefit the many.”
“This is how we reconnect the world because we have a huge divide between the very rich and the very impoverished who are on the poverty line, struggling to pay utility bills, fighting for water and bread to eat. And that’s the disconnect. If we can somehow fill that gap by creating models in our world that can actually benefit many, you can close that gap and create a reconnection,” explains Jafri.
Pimp my buns
The actual vehicles that Jafri has modified are the Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II, an oversized and somewhat inelegant space-taking block of steel, and imbues it with Jafri’s signature color flare.
Each of the six cars has been modeled from different elements: earth, air, wind, water, fire, and Jafri’s own addition: humanity.
Mods come in five forms. There is a mention of NFT which has its physical form in the glove box.
More prominently, Jafri personalized the Rolls-Royce with the Spirit of Ecstasy, the sculpted mascot that takes pride of place on every Rolls bonnet.
“The spirit of ecstasy is the Holy Grail and must never be touched. So we created a rotating base that I designed that has six pieces on the base. And it rotates to show your piece of the car you own. It’s beautiful,” explains Jafri.
There are also Jafri color spots on the car’s gallery and sill plate, with the car’s paint color and interior details completely unique to each car.
Torsten Muller-Otvos, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, told Jafri at the launch that “these are six of the most valuable cars we’ve ever made.”
What you think of the final product is functionally irrelevant. All six cars have now gone to “special homes”, according to the press release. More interesting is Jafri’s intention to create a difference in impoverished communities through such extravagant works.
The work of life in love
Jafri was first persuaded to work so closely with charities around 15 years ago, when he spent five years visiting 42 refugee camps.
Based on his experiences with children in camps, he created the series “Children’s Universe”. The work sold for “£12 million, which was a lot of money at the time”. Jafri donated all this to the camps, and from then on he dedicated his work similarly.
“I realized pretty quickly that my work was pretty mediocre if it wasn’t related to humanity,” he admits. “There is no magic, this force, this power.”
“But when I connect it to humanity, when it has a cause behind it, I reach out to something that is bigger than me, I reach out to something that I really, really believe in, which I believe is the soul of the earth, then it becomes quite magical.”
The Rolls-Royce project charities are close to Jafri’s heart. The first four are announced and the next four each year as part of the NFT sale.
Harmony House is one of the first four charities and specializes in lifting Indian children out of poverty. Operating two full-time villa communities, Harmony House offers over 1,000 women and children from India’s slums a place to live with education, food, medical facilities, hygiene facilities, vocational training and social services.
“It’s unbelievable to see a child from the streets of India become a human rights lawyer. If you do it enough times, you will change the world because this human being can easily change his own community,” says Jafri.