SUPERYACHTS AND ART: AN ACHIEVABLE COMBINATION, BUT…..
The SY are increasingly becoming itinerant art galleries with collections and works on board as well as the most renowned museums, where the economic value of the pieces of art can exceed that of the boat itself!
Just to name a few: Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece Salvator Mundi (probably the most expensive work of art in the world) apparently features in the SY of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salma, while Vincent Van Gogh’s works would complete the 50 m of furniture called “Vango” by the shipowner Larry Van Tuyl ( now renamed “Tranding”).
The conditional is a must because the confidentiality also in this (apparently) small segment of yachting is the master: while it is often difficult to know the name of the owner of a SY, knowing the works of art that a SY contains is all the more difficult.
Owners love to be surrounded and bring objects and works of art on board partly for their own personal pleasure, partly to show off and impress their friends.
Although the combination of art and SY is on the rise, the yachting world and its players still struggle to consider it an essential part of it.
Let’s see why.
- Let’s start from an observation that concerns the boat: the proper preservation of the works of art on board a SY starts as early as during the designing of the unit and then continues with the construction of the yacht and then with the water tests.
In fact, the design team will definitely have to predict and anticipate all the stressful situations the artwork will experience due to changes in temperature, humidity, and light because if Andy Wharlow’s Campbell’s Soup is exposed to MoMA at a constant temperature, humidity and light, therefore it is not on board a SY where these factors are often not stable as they are influenced by multiple circumstances.
Specifically, the amount of water vapour contained in the air is the key to the proper conservation of the artwork and monitoring relative humidity at 50%, at a temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius, is critical but difficult to stabilise on a SY.
A properly air-conditioned SY works between a relative humidity range of 40-60 % and no more than 10 % fluctuations over 24 hours.
But since the “ideal” temperature for the conservation of the artwork would be too low even for the comfort of the crew and guests, the correct location of the artwork itself and the consequent management of the environment in which it is stored are of fundamental importance.
What is known to those working in the sector, on a boat are usual sudden changes in temperature or humidity because they are influenced by the continuous opening / closing of internal / external doors with a consequent exchange of heat that exposes the works to a harmful climatic environment.
- But not only that, the “invisible” heat produced by the wiring of the cables behind the panels that cover the wainscoting of the yacht, can also cause an increase in temperature and therefore an alteration of the ideal conservation parameters of the works.
The same is also true for the proximity of hot and cold pipes that are often not considered until they have caused damage.
- Even large glass surfaces, which are now predominant in the design of a SY and which are designed to meet the owners’ demands for more light inside, can cause damage to artwork. The glazed panels, while reducing the amount of UV rays that penetrate inside the boat, are not always adequate to protect the artwork.
- Another factor not to be underestimated is the vibrations, even if they are not perceived by guests and crew, motors and generators emit a vibration frequency that can damage the artwork.
RESPECTING THE DESIGN HANDBOOK, CAN IT BE ENOUGH TO AVOID A DISASTER?
Apparently, respecting the above design, technical and technological handbook may seem sufficient to protect and preserve the integrity of the artwork stored on a SY, but this is not the case.
On one hand, the awareness and on the other, the training of the crew can make the difference: these two factors are inseparably linked and protect the artwork.
Only a crew fully aware of the economic and cultural value of the artwork can understand the vulnerability caused by the surrounding environment (and by environment I don’t mean only the physical space where the artwork is placed).
The dangers posed to floating art collections are the most bizarre and varied one can imagine, considering that the yacht is often used to host parties and families: the scenes of champagne corks flying towards a Picasso painting during a “lively” evening and cornflakes or coca cola drops splashed by children at breakfast on a Basquiat painting are now well known!
If this is the case, the crew must be as careful as ever in managing the areas of the yacht where food and drink are in close contact with the pieces of art, although the possibility of damage is greatly reduced if the designers have protected the work with panes of glass or recessed into the wall.
Obviously it is useless to take these precautions if the owner wants to admire (or more often let his/her guests and curious people in general) the artwork on the upper deck of his/her yacht!
YOU HAVE TO PREPARE THE CREW FOR THE WORST…
As far as the crew training and art factor is concerned, there seems to be still a gap in the yachting system: when hiring a captain or a chief steward, the curriculum rarely mentions skills and experience in the care and conservation of artworks and even less are requested by the crew management companies which, presumably, consider them “useless” or of little value!
On the contrary, a crew trained and qualified in the best cleaning practices and proper conservation techniques is the best guarantee the owner can wish for.
Avoid treating and maintaining artwork stored on a SY as everyday objects, using normal cleaning practices and products can make all the difference between preserving it and destroying it in a heartbeat.
Let’s also think about the hypothesis of a fire breaking out on board or a breach in the hull: obviously the priority is to ensure the safety of guests and crew, but if the incident is under control, having a proper, tried, and tested emergency procedure for the removal of artworks could make the difference between a compelling story to be told and a real catastrophe!
It is therefore essential that experts in the sector, curators and art galleries, as well as engineers specialised in the study of lighting, become an integral and essential part of the yachting system as soon as possible in order to raise awareness and prepare all the players who operate in different capacities, providing them with the know-how, skills and solutions necessary to avoid the irreparable loss of these assets.