What is it about the combination of yachting and art that’s so singular? Much more than fulfilling the need for a personal touch, art collections have found their sea homes in many custom luxury yachts and superyachts around the world, including Greece.
The presence of art on a yacht can enhance the total experience by providing exceptional thrills for art connoisseurs. Art can be uniquely employed to delineate space, express the yacht owner’s sophisticated tastes and increase the value of a vessel, especially one that’s chartered out.
““…Bear in mind that a boat is a vacation spot, so the art on board can be a casual thing. You don’t want to be constantly in awe as you walk around.”
Terrence Disdale - Yacht designer
Libra Y (pictured above) boasts a collection of contemporary art by celebrated artists such as Nan Goldin, Matthew Barney, Nobuyoshi Araki, Louise Lawler, Roni Horn and Tacita Dean - Photo: Louisa Nicolaidou
If you’re thinking about adorning your beloved yacht with artworks you already own or new acquisitions, various factors must be taken into consideration. Naturally, there is a world of decorative art out there that can help you beautify and personalize your boat. If, however, the aim is to outfit a yacht with art of substantial aesthetic and monetary worth, one needs to locate suitable collaborators, reflect and plan in advance. There are superyacht art consultants who guide owners throughout the journey, yet, even without one, a solid relationship with an art dealer, curator or gallery owner is enough to bring worthy art to sea.
Photo: Philippe Servent
Renowned gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac (pictured above - https://ropac.net), who represents a roster of illustrious artists, emphasizes the technical aspects of the process, such as controlling «sunlight and humidity; this needs to be taken into account from the beginning to...best preserve the works.» Mr Ropac believes that «placing [art] works on a yacht...is ultimately just a continuation of the particular art collection.» He cites Dakis Joannou’s Guilty (pictured below) as an example of «an artwork and exhibition space in its own right».
Pictured above: Dakis Joannou’s Guilty, a collaboration between Italian yacht designer Ivana Porfiri and mega-artist Jeff Koons
Rebecca Camhi, owner of the homonymous Athenian gallery (www.rebeccacamhi.com) , believes that «when you appreciate that living with art is an upgrade to your visual and emotional life, the criteria for choosing pieces for a yacht remain the same». According to Ms Camhi, selecting the pieces «is an opportunity to launch oneself into a beautiful experience by looking at art. I would ask [the yacht owners/collectors] their favourite artists [and] what kind of energy they would like through the artworks that we would be choosing.”
A significant art collection aboard a custom yacht is taken into account from the early stages of design. The functionality of a yacht’s spaces is, of course, of utmost importance. Artworks -and the way they are combined- can play more than an aesthetic role, complementing rooms and spaces in a manner both alluring and practical. Unsurprisingly, this is the most pleasurable part of bringing an art collection onboard. Considerable management is involved and there’s a variety of issues to be addressed and impeccably organised: paperwork both for originals and replicas, legal considerations when transporting artworks across country borders, security and insurance, correct installation, crew training and light and climate control for preservation.
"From safety to temperature control, it requires a bigger commitment. On the other side, technology today allows for it and makes for a superb environment."
Dominique Lèvy - Lèvy-Grorvy
According to Niki Kapopoulou, curator and owner of The Art Dose (www.theartdose.com), curating for yachts is a different process than curating for homes, with its own delights and logistics: «I have to...think how these pieces will logically work when the client is sailing and in volatile weather conditions» . According to Ms Kapopoulou, the process begins with asking the client their intentions and exploring the yacht in order to consider the perfect piece for each space without overcrowding. «In yachts I also...experiment with sculpture...When it comes to decorating a yacht with art, the customer can be...daring with their choices, because they will not be living with the pieces for very long periods of time. This enables them to be a bit more experimental with their taste, which is always a delight for the curator.»
Marina Vranopoulou, founder of Dio Horia gallery (Athens and Mykonos - www.diohoria.com), feels that curating is like “narrating a story and staging it well”. Ms Vranopoulou explains that “curation varies: it may reflect the identities of the yacht owners, the story of the yacht, the...waters it travels to and so on. More often than not, the artworks reflect some kind of horizontal collection where artists of the same generation or of the same medium are installed together.”
Joseph C. Lewis' 98m. Aviva (pictured above), built in 2017 by Abeking & Rasmussen and designed by Raymond Langton is said to carry the precious cargo of Francis Bacon’s Triptych 1974–1977 - Photo by Guillaume Plisson
Around the world, there are a few superyachts that host exceptional collections. Roman Abramovich’s Eclipse hosts 450 artworks and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan’s Topaz around 800. The Helios superyacht’s collection includes works by Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol, the Aviva is said to carry the precious cargo of Francis Bacon’s Triptych 1974–1977 and Revelry hosts works by by Ellsworth Kelly and Alexander Calder. It isn’t a coincidence that most superyacht owners on the planet are also passionate art collectors.
In Greece, Odyssey, a custom line 112 Ferretti, combines an eclectic variety of artworks. A mix of older and contemporary pieces, including tapestry and works in fabric, proves to be ideal for a seafaring collection. Libra Y, on the other hand, boasts a collection of contemporary art by celebrated artists such as Nan Goldin, Matthew Barney, Nobuyoshi Araki, Louise Lawler, Roni Horn and Tacita Dean.
"when you appreciate that living with art is an upgrade to your visual and emotional life, the criteria for choosing pieces for a yacht remain the same"
Irene Panagopoulos, owner of the m/y Odyssey (34M Custom Line by Ferretti group), walks us through her family’s take on the combination of art and yachting. “Our family has collected art since the 70s. The collection started with a group of Greek artists…Ghikas Hatzikyriakos, Moralis and Fasianos. Currently it has expanded to include international and younger generation Greek artists. Our yacht…was launched in 2008. Parts of the interior furnishings were renovated in more earthly tones, to better integrate a variety of works of art. Since we sail mostly in Greece, the art theme that prevails on board is Greece and travel. The majority of the works…are small in scale due to limitations and restrictions of space. We have included tapestry and other works in fabric. There are no works on paper such as drawings, since paper can be vulnerable to humidity.”
Renowned Greek gallerist Rebecca Camhi (pictured above) believes that "when you appreciate that living with art is an upgrade to your visual and emotional life, the criteria for choosing pieces for a yacht remain the same" - Photo: Olympia Krasagaki
“Libra Y is a modernist yacht decorated with minimalist design furniture, leaving the traveller in a calm and peaceful atmosphere”, tells us owner Sandra Marinopoulou. “The photography collection personally curated for Libra Y is meant to integrate seamlessly”, although the main challenges when displaying such a collection on board are “excessive light, temperature and humidity."
Art historian Elya Tsouvelekakis, owner of the Best Off yacht, a Ferretti Custom Line Navetta 33, considers the difference between furnishing a yacht with art for personal and for charter use. “For commercial use…one seeks for the…works to integrate well with the environment in order to please all possible tastes. We wanted very few standout art pieces and more works that we could perhaps change in the future and we would also not worry about. Photography from YellowKorner in Monaco, a shop with limited numbered art photographs in affordable prices, proved the perfect solution.” Ms Tsouvelekakis also stresses that it is not only the art that can be affected, but also the yacht itself: “Another issue that might arise is how a work can be installed without creating any damage to the yacht. For instance, if the wall is leather, one might not want to create a hole, since it limits future changes and the future sale of the yacht.”
The interiors of 33M. Best Off (www.bestoffyacht.com), a successful charter yacht that blends decorative art with the yacht's contamporary-classic interiors, were curated by Niki Kapopoulou - Photo by Tom Claeren
The apogee of the elegant union between yachting and art is the concept of the yacht as artwork. Nowhere does this notion materialize more extraordinarily than on art collector Dakis Joannou’s Guilty, a collaboration between Italian yacht designer Ivana Porfiri and mega-artist Jeff Koons. Koons was inspired by razzle dazzle, a pattern of geometric camouflage used on ships during WWI with an aim to mislead the enemy. The yacht's exterior, painted by hand, features bright pink triangles, yellow rhombuses and blue polygons, for a truly stunning effect.
Pictured above: Interiors of Dakis Joannou's Guilty
According to Dakis Joannou himself, art can stand out in a yacht or integrate effortlessly in it; both approaches are valid. What is essential, however, is that the choice of “art is seamlessly integrated in the design of the yacht”. Choosing pieces for your yacht is “like curating, but kind of more complex! As the works are integrated with the design of the boat, a number of them are commissioned and the others need to fit the narrative. In addition, they need to be able to withstand the difficult conditions of the sea.” The yacht owner/collector must “figure out the narrative that will connect the works, choose the artists that will be commissioned and… [at the same time] look for other [artworks] to complete the installation.”
World-renowned yacht designer Terence Disdale has a particular view on the matter. “…Bear in mind that a boat is a vacation spot, so the art on board can be a casual thing. You don’t want to be constantly in awe as you walk around. If a client wants a prized piece from their collection…I’m not going to say no, but I tend to favour emerging artists…I’d rather find the next Picasso”. *
Dominique Lévy, founder of the Lévy Gorvy gallery in NY (pictured above, https://www.levygorvy.com), is often asked to curate for a yacht. “From safety to temperature control, it requires a bigger commitment. On the other side, technology today allows for it and makes for a superb environment. Paintings are the safest. Sculpture is harder to stabilize, and drawings react too much to light and humidity”. Ms Lévy asks the yacht owners “what they love, what they want to experience with the art”; any reason and approach are equally acceptable. After all, “living with art makes life better and more interesting”, no matter where you are.
When deciding to dive into the deep waters of art, consider what role you want it to play within the environment of your yacht. Consider the curating and management aspects of such an enterprise…and then allow yourself to stargaze. After all, both yachting and art collecting are endeavours of supreme luxury, fulfilment and passion.
* From the Superyacht Interiors edition