Elon Musk Is Sending a Fashion Billionaire to the Moon

Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Yusaku Maezawa, founder of Japan's largest e-comm retailer, will be the first private space tourist with SpaceX.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, founder of fashion e-commerce site Zozotown, hopes to become the world's first private space tourist with Elon Musk's SpaceX as soon as 2023.

A serious art collector, Maezawa has purchased all the seats on the yet-to-be built Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) launch vehicle, for which plans were unveiled in 2016. He also plans to invite six to eight artists from around the world to join him on his week-long space voyage, which he will turn into an art project he has named #dearmoon. "I did not want to have such a fantastic experience by myself," he said at a press conference held with Musk on Monday evening at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

Dressed in a Commes des Garcons T-shirt bearing a photo of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (in 2017, he paid $110.5 million for Basquiat's 1982 painting Untitled), Maezawa also wondered aloud what masterpiece Basquiat and others might have created had they been given the opportunity to travel to space.

"What if Picasso had gone to the moon? Or Andy Warhol? Or Michael Jackson or John Lennon? Or Coco Chanel? These are all artists that I adore," he said. "There are so many artists with us today that I wish could create amazing works of art for humankind, for children of the next generation. And I wish very much that such artists could go to space and see the moon up close and the earth in full view and create works that reflect their experience."

Maezawa's lifelong dream depends on Musk, who says "it's not 100 percent certain we can bring this to flight."

Only 24 people have traveled to the moon; if all goes as planned, Maezawa and his band of artists will be the first to do so since 1972.