Art Afloat: All Hands On-Deck!

Art Afloat: All Hands On-Deck!

This year Arius has the pleasure of joining a fascinating line up of speakers at ACREW Insights in Monaco, taking place on April 9th. The one-day event will focus on the management of rare and precious art onboard superyachts, and the implications of moving art across borders.

Art is, and will forever be, an integral part of personalizing a space. To the captains and crew of superyachts, it’ll be no surprise when owners of multi-million-dollar artworks want to bring them aboard to enjoy while relaxing at sea. Without a doubt, the art housed on superyachts is venerated, valuable and irreplaceable – but, it’s not typically something the crew will know how to look after.

Incidents regarding spiraling champagne corks heading towards a Picasso, or a bowl of cereal being thrown at a Basquiat, have made owners more aware of the implications of installing art onboard. Leading Art Historian and Conservator, Pandora Mather-Lees explains [1] "Now that the rich are increasingly bringing their art collections onboard their yachts, it's vital that captains and crew know how to care for these pieces."

Mather-Lees is leading this year’s ACREW Insights event, which will address themes including safety, conservation and the risk of prosecution when it comes to bringing a piece of art on board. In the lead up to event, we’ve taken a deeper dive into the biggest risks of installing art on superyachts and how we can prevent art from losing economic, cultural or aesthetic value.


Is Art on Superyachts a Conservation Nightmare?

An art collection onboard a superyacht is often worth more than the vessel itself – plus, it will most likely be financially and culturally appreciating. The question that comes mind… “is a yacht the best place to display artworks?”

Marine environments are quite harsh. Lighting, proper installation, and climate controls are all factors that owners must take into consideration when they want to bring their collection onboard. Just as on land, any piece of art needs to be protected from sunlight, humidity, and temperature fluctuations.

Insurers require the same conditions and requirements for displaying fine art in yachts, as they do for museums. Plus, we can’t simply hang a painting onboard; it must be installed properly so the artwork does not shift when sailing through six-meter waves.

While most superyachts have sophisticated climate control systems, when it comes to caring for artwork, at least a basic level of art conservation education is crucial for the crew to understand the specific environmental needs for fine art.

Superyacht Interior

Photo by Fraser from the UK edition of GQ Magazine


Better to be Safe Than Sorry, With Crew Training and Museum-Quality Reproductions.

In addition to making sure the general environment is safe for artwork, Pandora Mather-Lees recalls some incidents where clients have come to her with some cases that are quite peculiar. On one occasion, Mather-Lees was called for a restoration case when a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting was victim to a bowl of cornflakes.

She states in an interview with The Guardian[2]: “The owners’ kids had thrown their cornflakes at it over breakfast on his yacht because they thought it was scary.” The damage did not just end there, as the crew had made matters worse by wiping the grainy mess off the painting. The crew did not think much of the painting, Mather-Lees stating that the crew thought it was “just some painting,” they had no idea it was worth millions.

It is understandable that the crew did not know the painting was worth a substantial price tag as their training is primarily focused on the safety and operation of the vessel.

Realizing the need to help captains and crew care for art as well as they can care for the superyacht owner, Mather-Lees is offering courses that provide basic training and advice. In addition to this, Arius is offering owners the opportunity to prevent any harm by producing high-fidelity textured reproductions – which can be displayed anywhere in the world while the original is displayed in a gallery or safely stored.

Comparison of Van Gogh Iris to Arius Textured Reproduction

Side by side comparison of Van Gogh's "Iris" (left) and our museum-quality reproduction of "Iris" (right) from the National Gallery of Canada Collection

Crossing Borders and the Risk of Prosecution and Confiscation

While in theory, a superyacht could meet the stringent requirements to be a suitable place to store art, there is still the headache of art crossing borders. The risk of prosecution is an area that ACREW Insights will be addressing in detail; clarifying the context of new National Heritage laws and adopting best practices and processes for travel with art.

There is an imminent risk of art being seized by Customs if proper measures are not taken during transportation of the valuable artwork from one jurisdiction to another. However, the risk of prosecution or confiscation remains a very grey area since rules and regulations vary across the globe and even from port to port.

In 2015, French customs in Corsica seized Picasso’s Head of a Young Woman from Spanish billionaire, Jaime Botín’s yacht. Botín argued that the yacht was sailing under the British flag and was under UK’s jurisdiction, but this argument did not sway the court in Spain, which deemed the Picasso’s work as a national treasure of Spain.[3]

embers of the French and Spanish Police with the seized Picasso, Head of a Young Woman (1906

Members of the French and Spanish Police with the seized Picasso, Head of a Young Woman (1906). Courtesy Douane Fraçaise (Artnet News)

How Can Arius Help?

While the incidents that we’ve highlighted might have been impossible to predict, hindsight is always 20-20. We believe our technology can help superyacht owners and Captains prevent disaster and eradicate the complications of insurance, conservation and travelling with art onboard.

Insurance Brokers even suggest that owners obtain reproductions of their valued artwork and store the original in a secure, climate-controlled facility. With our world-leading 3D scanning system we can safely digitize and reproduce paintings, ensuring the geometry and colour of every brushstroke is captured and printed.

Arius’ textured prints take on the aura of the originals and can be displayed on any wall in the world, while the original remains safely tucked away from harm.

Van Gogh's "Iris" undergoing scanning process in the Arius 3D Scanning System

Van Gogh's "Iris" undergoing scanning process in the Arius 3D Scanning System



Photo credit for featured image to Alexander Mils on Pexels

[1] Business Insider: Billionaire yacht owners are desperately seeking advice to protect their priceless art from flying champagne corks and corn-flake stains,

[2] The Guardian: Mind my Picasso… superyacht owners struggle to protect art,

[3] The Art Newspaper

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