Finding the right art to accompany a cruise interior can be a daunting challenge, especially when you’re tasked with providing cohesive collections and unique pieces across an entire ship. Providing art to complement an interior space can make or break the guest experience; with well-appointed pieces, a guest’s onboard journey can be transformed from ordinary to quite the opposite. But how can cruise lines go about finding quality art to enhance the ship’s overall feel? And what goes into sourcing these pieces? We spoke with some of the industry’s most esteemed art agencies to discover how they source and implement experience-enhancing art for the world’s major cruise lines.
“Using artwork to ‘direct traffic’ is an easy and effective solution to the confusion that is a well-known initial effect of shipboard life, especially as the new ships increase in size.”
Art plays a vital part in the world of cruise interiors. Creating a visual experience through contemporary art not only provides guests with something to admire while they dine, relax, and enjoy entertainment, it also provides a utility in the sense that art pieces can act as a “marker” when onboard a large vessel. As ICArt, a globally renowned art consultancy firm with offices in Oslo, Miami, and Madrid, explains “Using artwork to ‘direct traffic’ is an easy and effective solution to the confusion that is a well-known initial effect of shipboard life, especially as the new ships increase in size.” In fact, according to the ICArt team “Feedback shows that guests often find their way back to their stateroom by finding ‘their’ artwork.” This is a sentiment that those who have cruised can relate to. To put things into perspective even further, Tal Danai, founder and creative director of ArtLink (established art curator, consultant, and provider with offices in Tel Aviv, Miami, and London) used the analogy of a car to convey his thoughts on the aesthetics versus utility debate: “Art may function on a decorative level. That may be an intuitive approach of a designer or even a brand. However, [to think of art as purely decorative] would be the same as designing a stunning car and excluding the wheels. It would look good but lose its essential purpose and abilities.”
Now more than ever, cruise lines are paying special attention to the art used onboard their vessels. Just last year, Holland America Line tasked marine art suppliers Art@YSA (part of interior design firm YSA Design) with providing around 2,500 original artworks for its newest ship, Nieuw Statendam. The art has transformed the ship. When art agencies play on the more dramatic or even whimsical aspects of an interior, letting the art function in harmony with its surroundings, an interior can be elevated and transformed to fascinating effect.
Even passenger flow can be improved with art. Well-established in the industry, ICArt has become a specialist in facilitating cohesive passenger movements with art. “We always ensure that there is a common theme in some way throughout, to safeguard the desired flow that is very relevant onboard a cruise ship,” says the ICArt team.
“In this way, the interiors give space to highlight the art, and the artwork helps individualize and highlight each area onboard.”
Considerations and processes for artwork do tend to differ, however, depending on whether the project is a newbuild or refurbishment. For example, when working on newbuilds, ICArt liaises closely with the client and designer early on to ensure the interiors and artwork are complementary and harmonious. The team says: “In this way, the interiors give space to highlight the art, and the artwork helps individualize and highlight each area onboard.”
Britain’s largest art collection at sea can be found onboard P&O’s flagship vessel Britannia. The art ranges from tapestries to ceramics, as well as paintings and sculptures. As a British-based ship, Britannia takes inspiration from its English roots, featuring art with the likes of JK Rowling, Daniel Craig, and the Queen in its focus.
It’s clear that cruise lines’ art collections, and the agencies which provide them, take inspiration from a ship’s heritage, but do itineraries factor into the equation at all? According to Danai, it’s unlikely that cruise lines will request art based on a ship’s scheduled route because “the art collection on board ships is essentially a permanent collection” and ships’ itineraries are ever-changing. In the world of expedition cruising, however, you’re likely to find artwork by indigenous artists whose roots can be seen throughout the expedition sailing route, according to ICArt.
In other areas of the cruise world fruitful partnerships have been forged, such as Viking Cruises collaboration with the British Museum, in which the Edvard Munch exhibition found its way onboard Viking Orion. Another interesting partnership emerged when ArtLink collaborated with interior designer Adam Tihany on Holland America Line’s Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam ships, whereby ArtLink worked on public areas of the ship and provided exclusive major artworks with Tihany.
Danai said: “Tihany wanted a work that will “hug” the atrium. In line with the overarching design direction of the ship, which concentrated on musical instruments, we created together a group of four “harps” and their “shadows” and had them produced into a 7.5-ton stainless steel sculpture that appears to hover in the air within the atrium. This is the most Instagrammed work on the ship.”
Other cruise lines featuring opulent collections include Cunard, which boasts a hefty multimillion-pound art collection. The line’s Queen Mary 2 carries an impressive 5,000 works of art.
“Corridors on ships are notorious for being narrow, badly lit and mostly undervalued as inspirational spaces. We opted to change that for [Seabourn's] Ovation”
But what about the less ‘Instagrammable’ areas of a ship? “Corridors on ships are notorious for being narrow, badly lit and mostly undervalued as inspirational spaces. We opted to change that for [Seabourn's] Ovation,” says Danai. “We curated a collection of some 1600 works, [400 of which were used in the corridors], that are all planned to evoke the notion of looking at a traveler’s intimate moment of reflecting on a journey, a destination, an emotion or a memory and adding a personal touch to an image. We have been told by the brand that guests and crew members alike make endless comments about the works, record them on phones and cameras and ask to purchase them.”
With the help of art consultancy firms and agencies such as ArtLink and ICArt, cruise lines are able to create a cohesive journey throughout the ship, playing on the whims and niches of its interiors while also immersing the guest in an interactive experience, which can only enhance their time aboard the vessel. To find out more about the art of cruise interiors, don’t miss ArtLink’s Tal Danai speaking at the Cruise Ship Interiors Conference, June 18-20, in the session ‘Oceans of Culture – Incorporating Art in a Cruise Ship Design’. Plus, keep an eye out for ICArt’s artwork dotted throughout the conference hall.