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Art Onboard

From commissioning sculptures and murals to creating bronze statement pieces, art on yachts has evolved beyond hanging paintings.

October 23, 2020
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Superyacht
Art on yachts is no longer just a few paintings on the wall. Owners and designers are infusing spaces with custom pieces. Winch Media

Every season in the National Football League, the thousands of fans who stream through the entrance to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta are treated to quite the visual feast. A four-story-tall falcon made of polished stainless steel, its massive wings outstretched, is so remarkable that it appears to be in motion. Adding to the drama, its talons clutch a bronze football, scoring a touchdown.

A similar bird of prey is on the bow of the 295-foot Oceanco DreAMBoat. Both the stadium’s statue (the world’s largest avian sculpture) and the one aboard the yacht are by the same contemporary artist. Both were commissioned by Arthur Blank, who owns the Atlanta Falcons and the yacht.

While Blank isn’t the first to commission art for his superyacht, he is among a growing number of owners who recognize that the possibilities for onboard artistic expression aren’t limited to nice pictures sprinkled here and there. In fact, from fixed and removable sculptures adorning bows to entire stateroom and spa walls serving as canvases, art aboard yachts is heading in imaginative and inspiring directions.

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Amels Aurora Borealis
This mountainscape in the master suite of the Amels Aurora Borealis involved painstaking hand-application of gold leaf, week after week. Courtesy Amels

Aboard the 220-foot Amels Aurora Borealis, David Knowles of the UK-based art-consultancy firm Artelier helped the owner treat an entire wall in the yacht’s master stateroom like a canvas. Opposite the bed, there’s a gold-leaf depiction of a mountain, with a lacquer for protection. The first step saw the wall assembled in the studio of the artist, who moved from the United States temporarily to Amels’ home country of the Netherlands, Knowles says. The artist spent several months applying the gold leaf there, and Artelier then transported the wall to the shipyard.

Knowles says owners and designers especially want spas to be onboard focal points. “We’ve developed artwork for inside saunas and steam rooms, for the walls behind Jacuzzis,” he says. These pieces present technical challenges because of moist, warm air. “In terms of working with artists, that’s where our collaborations are really valuable,” Knowles asserts. “We can work with the artists to develop specialist fixings and to do tests on various materials to make sure that they’re suitable for the space.”

Yacht art
The US-based artist who created the mountain scene aboard the 220-foot Aurora Borealis moved to the Netherlands to work on the project. Courtesy Artelier
Yacht art
Creating custom art is much like building a custom yacht. The mountain scene on Aurora Borealis was a collaboration between the owner and the artist. Courtesy Artelier

A close collaboration with Winch Design in London ensured beauty and durability with the myriad flowers on the curved wall abaft the spa tub aboard Plvs Vltra, an Amels 242. Each flower is porcelain, adorned with gold leaf that was sealed, and adhered to the wall with specially developed glue. Artelier worked with Winch Design on many other areas throughout the yacht too. “A yacht like that might involve 20 or 30 pieces, all highly bespoke and individual to the project,” Knowles explains.

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While some owners commission an extraordinary amount of one-of-a-kind artwork, others want one standout piece—in the form of a bow sculpture. Such sculptures may seem like a novelty, but they’re actually rooted in ancient-era figureheads that adorned wooden sailing ships. And, as with those early expressions of the form, today’s bow sculptures often relate to a yacht’s name. There’s a phoenix, for example, aboard the 295-foot Lürssen Phoenix 2, as well as a shapely female posing with her arms behind her head aboard the 240-foot Lürssen Titania, the name of the queen of the fairies from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Amels Yacht
For yachts like the Amels Plvs Vltra, Artelier develops special glue to adhere art pieces to walls and conducts wobble tests to ensure sculptures’ stability. Jeff Brown

A giant gleaming jaguar, its front left paw raised and the other paw resting on a football helmet, is at the bow of the 312-foot Lürssen Kismet . That yacht belongs to Shahid “Shad” Khan, owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Constructed with a metallic coating that is as durable as it is bright, the jaguar has equally bright teal eyes. The removable sculpture’s dimensions make it all the more impressive: 6 feet, 6 inches high and 13 feet, 5 inches long. It weighs a hefty 220 pounds.

Blank wanted the falcon on DreAMBoat’s bow to be removable as well because a helipad is in its proximity. Budapest-based Gábor Miklós Szőke, who created the falcon outside of Mercedes- Benz Stadium, visited DreAMBoat in build at Oceanco to better comprehend the yacht’s scale and study its technical details. He determined the sculpture needed to be “extra light and strong at the same time due to the extreme wind load and weather conditions, such as the salty and humid air,” he says.

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For the design, Szőke was determined “to keep as much of the original character of the falcon as possible.”

Amels yacht interior
A stone sculpture, with textured surfaces similar to the unhewn form, is an eye-catcher aboard the Amels Plvs Vltra. Courtesy Artelier

DreAMBoat’s falcon design, in cast aluminum, mimics the thousands of welded stainless-steel feathers in the stadium’s statue. It stands nearly 4 feet high, with a wingspan exceeding 5 feet.

“The movement of the bird is similar, but it is more symmetrical in order to align it with the DreAMBoat design,” Szőke says. In fact, because the artist liked the yacht’s streamlined edges, “I’ve redefined the design of the big falcon to accommodate this.”

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In other words, the artwork became not just an element aboard the yacht but also an integral reflection of it. That’s a far cry from an owner choosing a painting to hang on a bulkhead. It’s form and function combining to create beauty with new meaning.

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