Cruise ship as art gallery

featured image

When Mariangela Capuzzo thinks about art, sometimes she also thinks about salt. At the same time she considers art for its durability, including the possible long-term effect of vibrations.

Curating a fine art collection on a cruise ship presents challenges not confronted on land – including the unseen corrosive power of that delightful sea breeze.

Capuzzo, artistic director and lead curator for International Corporate Art’s Miami office in Coral Gables, Fla., is the go-to aesthete for Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. She has curated the art collections onboard Celebrity’s Solstice class ships, Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, and the Oasis-class ships including the world’s largest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas.

When she does this work, she says, often the starting point is the ship’s name.

“For example, for the Oasis-class, the curatorial direction of all of those ships starts with the Wonder of Our World,” Capuzzo says. “So through the art collection we explore wonder.”

“On the first ship, Oasis of the Seas, the Wonder of Our World is the Natural World, the second ship [Allure] – the Cultural World, and on the third ship [Harmony], the World We Live In as experienced through people, places, what we do and what inspires us.”

Once the concept is approved by Royal Caribbean’s newbuild executives, Capuzzo and an ICArt team that includes architectural experts and engineers start gathering or commissioning art that makes a statement about the ship’s narrative arc, can withstand the rigors faced by art at sea and can be installed in the onboard sites chosen as their showcase.

For Harmony, Capuzzo says she contacted artists from all over the world – “I’ve been working in the art field for 20, 30 years – whose work, either visually, aesthetically or through its medium, really makes a statement about the narrative that I am exploring.”

By the time they were finished, Harmony of the Seas had a contemporary art collection of more than 3,000 individual works created by artists from some 60 nationalities and costing $6.3 million.

A kinetic sculpture entitled Head by Czech artist David Cerny is the ship’s signature piece and as such was installed in the middle of the Royal Promenade. Composed of several dozen layers of mirrored metal, each of which rotates on a central axis, “this mesmerizing engineering feat reminds us of the multiplicity of the human experience in today’s world,” Capuzzo wrote in the collection’s digital catalog.

“Our technological computerized advancements – gadgets, phones, and more – make our heads continuously spin, non-stop.”

Capuzzo noted, however, that the “true core” of Harmony’s art collection is to be found in its stair towers displaying pieces chosen for their evocation of the artists’ hands, techniques that require craft and the feel of the multi-disciplinary Renaissance man.

The Harmony collection also includes works that are unlikely ever to be seen by guests. For the first time in Royal’s onboard art history, the ship’s busiest working corridor, nicknamed “I-95,” was included among the sites chosen for display. It’s below decks, where five large murals were commissioned for the crew to enjoy as they go about their jobs.