There’s some very precious cargo aboard the newly built cruise ship “Reflections,” which sets sail on its maiden voyage on Wednesday from Miami to the Caribbean. The boat, one of a fleet of 11 ships owned by Celebrity Cruises, is loaded with no fewer than 6,059 works of contemporary art — and that’s just a fraction of the company’s $60-million blue-chip collection. (By comparison, the total number of works are more than a third of the estimated size of UBS’s collection, which is considered one of the most notable corporate collections in the world.)
With a $4.1-million budget for the new ship, International Corporate Art’s Mariangela Capuzzo curated a mix of old and new acquisitions that all relate in some way to the theme of reflection. For the dining vestibule, Albano Afonso overlaid an aluminum backdrop with panoramic photographs of a Brazilian forest, and elsewhere on board is a psychedelic mural by Dzine, a set of Robert Rauschenberg etchings, a red aluminum rose by Will Ryman, and an installation of two mirror-image reflective trees by Bert Rodriguez, who kicked off the ship’s preview yesterday with an onboard performance art piece.
Unlike hanging paintings in the boardrooms of traditional corporate collections, curating for a cruise ship often requires more elaborate considerations. For the eight site-specific works on board, Capuzzo and her team at began working with the artists more than a year ago, while the ship was being manufactured in Germany. “Everything is based on drawings,” she said, “and it’s very complex to create an art collection on a ship, to create measurements when everything’s in millimeters, and to follow all the material constraints.” Any wood, for example, must be fire-treated; the International Maritime Organization must approve all resins, and nothing should contain Plexiglass, which can emit toxic chemicals if burned.
Celebrity Cruises owners Christina and John Chandris began assembling the collection in 1990, purchasing a Robert Indiana “Love” sculpture, a bronze Fernando Botero nude, and a Damien Hirst butterfly painting, among many other now-famous works. In the late ’90s, Chandris sold the company to Royal Caribbean International, and several years later Capuzzo came on board as the chief curator.
“There’s nobody in the industry that does what Celebrity does,” she said. “What’s amazing is that Royal continued what Christina started. They give you this budget and the freedom, and we try to create a museum-like experience for guests on board.”
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