The Lunar Codex Will Archive the Work of 30,000 Artists—on the Moon

A series of time capsules will honor and preserve contemporary art from around the globe

From his home in Ontario, Samuel Peralta displays a sample gold NanoFiche—similar to the smaller, nickel-based NanoFiche that will be traveling to the lunar surface. Lance McMillan / Toronto Star via Getty Images

When Samuel Peralta contacts artists about putting their work on the moon, they don’t always believe him.

“I say, ‘I’d like to put your art on the moon,’ and they think this is some sort of a scam,” the semiretired physicist and author tells the New York Times’ J. D. Biersdorfer.

But it’s true. Peralta is the mastermind behind the Lunar Codex, a series of time capsules containing the work of 30,000 artists from 157 countries that will journey to the lunar surface. Peralta wants the project to honor artists after the difficulties they faced during the pandemic, he tells the Toronto Star’s Kevin Jiang.

Peralta sees his project as “a message in the bottle for the future” showing that “during this time of war, pandemic and economic upheaval people still found time to create beauty,” he says to the Times.

Though the moon is already home to works of art like the Moon Museum and Fallen Astronaut, Peralta says his project is unique because “it focuses on contemporary arts—not Shakespeare, or Mozart, or Rembrandt,” he tells Artnet’s Adam Schrader. “Others are working to preserve that.”

Among the works selected for the Lunar Codex are Ayana Ross’ painting New American Gothic, Pauline Aubey’s Lego portrait Emerald Girl and The Polaris Trilogy: Poems for the Moon, a commissioned poetry anthology with works from every continent, including Antarctica, per the Times. It also features pieces by the Ukrainian printmaker Olesya Dzhurayeva, who had to flee Kyiv last year in the wake of the Russian invasion, and Connie Karleta Sales, an artist with the autoimmune disease neuromyelitis optica who creates paintings using eye-gaze technology.

Microscopic versions of the visual art, poetry and stories Peralta has collected will be inscribed on a small disc of nickel NanoFiche designed to weather harsh conditions, while audio and films will be stored on radiation-shielded memory cards, he tells the Toronto Star.

The Lunar Codex is made up of four time capsules. The first, called the Orion Collection, has already been to space as part of NASA’s Artemis 1 mission and returned to Earth in late 2022. The next three, nicknamed the Nova Collection, the Peregrine Collection and the Polaris Collection, will land on the moon over the next few years as part of commercial payloads, traveling in tandem with NASA missions, according to the project’s website.

To enable so many artists around the world to participate, Peralta and his company Incandence are footing the bill for the undertaking. The main requirement for inclusion is that an artist’s works must have been “pre-curated by a gallerist, curator, editor or anthologist that I know to be professional,” Peralta tells Artnet.

“This is the largest, most global project to launch cultural works into space,” Peralta says to the Times. “There isn’t anything like this anywhere.”

Heather Horton, a visual artist who paints in the style of magical realism, tells the Toronto Star she “couldn’t believe it,” when she was approached for the project. Now, 13 of her oil paintings will travel to the lunar surface.

“I’ll never look at the moon the same,” she says. “It’s a privilege to be going up there.”

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