Art at Sea

An oil painting by Bas Sebus commissioned for the QE2s Caronia RestaurantAs the battle for market share intensifies, megaships are being designed to incorporate an ever-expanding array of onboard amenities running the gamut from specialty restaurants, sophisticated spas and state-of-the-art recreational facilities to innovative entertainment venues, shopping boutiques, and Internet cafes. A growing number of cruise lines have also sought to augment their ships’ aesthetic appeal by adorning public areas and staterooms with original works of art.

“Art at sea” specialist Enterprise & Art (E&A) acquires and manages modem art collections for Holland America Line (HAL), Cunard Line, and P&O North Sea Ferries. Based in Amsterdam, the company began operations in 1987 as an art consultant advising corporations and institutions on the purchase, hire or lease of original works of art.
Under the director Erik Hermida and his staff of eight art historians, E&A selects contemporary works that best fit a company’s identity and maximize the communication potential of art.

As works of art can significantly improve the corporate working environment on land, so does art have a positive impact at sea. “While a cruise ship won’t sink without art, it provides an extra touch of class and refinement,” Hermida says. “The placement of an appropriate piece of art in public spaces and staterooms not only enhances the ship’s interior but also enriches the passengers’ overall cruise experience. When it comes to amenities, art at sea is the icing on the cake.”

In The Beginning: HAL’s Ryndam

E&A embarked on its first cruise ship venture in 1993 when it was contracted by Dutch architectural firm VFD as art consultant for HAL’s Ryndam. From the first meeting of ownership it was apparent that HAL and E&A were an especially good match. “Not only are HAL’s owners art aficionados, but they view contemporary art as an essential element in improving a ship’s interior design,” said Hermida. After its initial art at sea collection was well received onboard the Ryndam, the relationship with HAL strengthened over the next 10 years, with E&A contracted to supervise modern art commissions for the rest of the fleet.

Key to the selection process is E&A’s relationship with F.C.J. Dingemans, principal architect for VFD. The procedure of selecting the artists and works of art begins with a meeting between HAL, E&A, and Dingemans. Besides determining the budget for the collection, the architect explains how each space will look and the exact location for either a painting, water- color, mural, sculpture or whatever other piece of art he has in mind. Modem works on HAL ships are on display in a wide range of public spaces plus individual staterooms. In some areas of the ship, works must be painted on fireproof or fire- resistant materials such as honeycomb aluminum and cape marine board, and fire- retardant varnishes must be used.

Once the final selection is approved, each chosen artist receives a contract specifying size, subject, materials, and deadline for each work along with a schedule of payments. E&A follows up with regular progress reports on the status of each work until it is finished, and is then responsible for crating and transporting the work to the ship and supervising onboard installation. “It takes approximately two years from the initial meeting with the cruise line through the completion of all the works and their placement on the ship,” Hermida said.

E&A also supplied the entire collections of contemporary art displayed aboard the two new giant P&O North Sea Ferries – Pride of Rotterdam and Pride of Hull – including a silkscreen of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands by famed American pop artist Andy Warhol which is located in the reception area of the Pride of Rotterdam.

Hitting It Big With Cunard

Another prestigious commission came E&A’s way in 1999 when it was contracted by Cunard to work with London- based SMC Design on providing more than 200 contemporary works for the refit of the QE2. Along with selecting art for several rebuilt public areas, a series of original paintings, watercolors and sculptures were chosen to compliment the ship’s three grand suites which were completely refurbished according to the themes of water, dance, and country life. Of special interest on the refitted QE2 are the large oil paintings created by the two noted Dutch artists, Bas Sebus and Ton Dubbledam, for the Mauretania and Caronia restaurants and the Promenade. E&A scored the ultimate cruise coup in May 2001 when it was awarded a multi-million-dollar contract by Cunard to be the sole art consultant for the Queen Mary 2. This mammoth undertaking in collaboration with Tillberg Design requires assembling a diverse world-class collection to compliment the interior of the largest cruise liner ever built. As of March 2002, E&A had commissioned 128 artists from 16 different countries to create 565 original works for public spaces including free-standing bronze and glass sculptures, oil paintings, murals, mosaics, and watercolors as well as a 300-square-foot tapestry and a 1,200-square-foot trompe l’oeuil painted ceiling. In addition E&A will supply 4,000 limited edition prints for the cabins and companionways of the vessel.

Among the ship’s public spaces with the most unique interior design is the Canyon Ranch spa. “The spa is an introspective space with a Zen-like atmosphere, and here we are placing natural stone statues with abstract shapes created to stimulate the thought process,” says Hermida. All the works of art will be aboard ship in plenty of time for its launch date, currently scheduled for late 2003.

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