When I go on a cruise, I look for places to see art in the various ports of call. However, sometimes you can see art without ever leaving the ship. This is because some cruise lines have invested in quality art collections on their ships.
Here, I am not talking about the art that is sold on board through a concessionaire. Nor am I talking about travel photos placed in the hallways for decoration. Rather, I am talking about art collections that typically cost the cruise lines millions of dollars.
Cruise ships with significant art collections are not limited to the luxury or premium cruise lines. For example, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas is a popular cruise ship targeted primarily at mass market consumers. Yet, it has an art collection that cost millions and which took considerable effort to develop.
Freedom is a big, brightly decorated ship geared toward an active and energetic cruise experience. Accordingly, its art collection features contemporary works, often with pop art influences. The art works are located in the ship's public spaces, the stair towers and in the corridors leading to the staterooms.
The collection was put together in consultation with International Corporate Art. It was developed around a theme - - “the four basic elements that comprise the universe: Earth, Fire, Water & Air.” The theme is not always readily apparent in the works but it is not really essential to appreciating the collection.
The heart of the ship is the Royal Promenade, a multi-story passage running 445 feet and linking two atriums. With shops, bars and eateries along either side, it resembles a city street or a Las Vegas style mall.
Suspended from the ceiling midway down the Royal Promenade is the ship's most prominent art installation - - “Down Under,” a giant sculpture of a young woman who has just dove into the sea. Since you are looking up, you see her from the perspective of someone standing on the sea floor. British sculptor David Mach used fiberglass and steel to create this colorful piece.
In the forward atrium is another installation consisting of models of three fighter jets soaring upwards. They are in formation, about to peel off in different directions as in an air show. While spectacular while viewed from the base of the atrium, when you view the work from the upper decks, you see that the airplanes are decorated with fragments of images taken from frescoes by 18th century Venetian artist Giambattista Tiepolo. These images, taken from churches and placed on instruments of war, turn “Komba Tiepolo 30, 31 and 32” by Antonio Riello into a provocative statement.
At the other end of the Royal Promenade is a bridge with two lighted columns at each end. Atop each of the pillars is a copy of the Vittoria Alata (Winged Victory) statue in the Vittorio Emanuele Monument in Rome. In this work by Larry Kirkland, each of the pillars is meant to represent one of the four elements, the theme of the collection.
In the atrium just beyond the bridge is another installation – two large bronzed traffic lights. This is “Stop and Go” by Harald Vlugt.
Not all of the works on Freedom are monumental. Each landing in the stair towers contains works on a smaller scale. Most often these are photographs but these also include sculptures made with a variety of different materials.
To me, perhaps the most interesting works are in the corridors by the staterooms. Here, you can find works done in more traditional ways including prints and drawings. Unfortunately, the signage here is not as good as in the main public areas and so it is difficult to identify some of these works and the artists.
Since Freedom came into service in 2006, there have been a number of changes to her public areas. As a result, some of the works that were originally on the ship have been removed. However, it still is interesting to explore the art of Freedom of the Seas.
Above left: David Mach's "Down Under" dominates the Royal Promenade on Freedom of the Seas.
Above right: Suspended in the aft atrium is Harald Vlugt's "Stop and Go." Seen in the background below the aforementioned installation is Larry Kirkland's "The Four Elements".
Rich Wagner is a writer, photographer and artist.