The centerpiece of Norwegian Breakaway's art collection is not hard to find. It is a work by Peter Max which covers 40,000 square feet of the ship's hull. "The artwork is a composite of New York City and cosmic imagery - -the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, a giant sunburst, planets, stars, and musical notes. That's my New York! And now Norwegian Breakaway is my New York cruise ship 'canvas.'" Mr. Max has explained.
Although several of the Norwegian Cruise Line ships that preceded Breakaway had colorful murals painted on their hulls, Breakaway was the first ship to have a mural by a well-known established artist on her hull. Mr. Max rose to prominence in the 1960s with his pop art images that captured the spirit of the psychedelic 60s. From that base, he continued to develop a distinctive colorful style through series involving images of the Statue of Liberty and the American flag as well as celebrity portraits. He has also found commercial success being designated Official Artist of five Super Bowls, six Grammy Awards, World Cup USA, The World Series, the United Nations Earth Summit, and numerous other events. His work has also been reproduced on the cover of the Yellow Pages and on a U.S. Postage stamp.
The Breakaway project was not Mr. Max's first large scale work. Prior to undertaking the project for Norwegian, he had painted a 777 airliner for Continental Airlines and had designed a 600 foot stage for the Woodstock Music Festival.
Of course, Mr. Max did not take a sable-hair brush down to the Manhattan piers and paint the sides of the ship. Rather, he created the design for the work which was then reproduced on the hull of the ship when it was under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany.
Being outdoors, subject to ocean waves and the blasting of salt spray, Mr. Max's mural is in a hostile environment. In order to maintain the work, Breakaway's crew regularly sprays the hull with fresh water to remove the accumulated salt. When the ship is in port, standing on rafts and using long handled rollers, they also re-touch the paint. This work is done by the sailors of Breakaway's deck department.
Mr. Max did not confine his vision to off-the-shelf colors of marine paint. Therefore, Breakaway carries a supply of unique colors needed to maintain the mural.
You also see images by Mr. Max inside the ship. Breakaway devotes a considerable amount of its public space to Park West Galleries, which sells works by Mr. Max as well as works by other artists. Naturally, given the ship's connection to Mr. Max, his works are often featured and on display. However, these works belong to the concessionaire rather than to the ship.
Finding works that belong to the ship is more difficult, The staircases and elevator lobbies where cruise ships often display their art collections are decorated with mirrors and photographic images of travel destinations on Breakaway. There are reproductions and photographs in the various specialty restaurants and bars. However, these are part of the décor of those venues rather than a serious art collection.
But there is an art collection. There is a giant modern chandelier in the atrium that pulses and changes colors in a variety of combinations creating different images and atmospheres. Forward on one of the public decks is an installation with (paper?) butterflies in a cornucopia shape. Also, in the Taste and Savor restaurants are a number of contemporary paintings that appear to be originals. I liked a series of paintings in Taste that look like monochromatic abstractions at first glance but on further study are scenes looking up at the surface of the sea from below. Unfortunately, there is no signage by these works crediting the artists or discussing the works.
It is disappointing that Breakaway does not have any ocean liner art like there is on Norwegian's Jewel class ships. Having owned the SS Norway (formerly SS France) and the SS United States, Norwegian has a strong connection to ocean liner history. But on Breakaway, Norwegian essentially cedes this subject matter to Cunard. Along the same lines, although the line uses the slogan “cruise like a Norwegian,” there is no Norwegian art or design on Breakaway, essentially ceding this area to Viking Cruises. With such a rich heritage, it seems like these are missed opportunities.
Above left: Sailors maintaining the Peter Max mural on Norwegian Breakaway.
Above right: Breakaway's atrium chandelier changes color.
Below left: The butterfly installation.
Below right: A painting in the Taste restaurant.
Rich Wagner is a writer, photographer and artist.