Feb 05 2019 12:29 PM


There are currently 2,208 billionaires in this world. There are over 36 million millionaires. These billionaires and millionaires are the ones that invest in superyachts all over the world, garnishing them with products of some of the most famous and elite artists globally. It could be due to the enjoyment of sophisticated art collection or for the mere tax havens yachts can be for their owners, but art is heavily embedded in the atmosphere and personality of the yacht. At the Antigua yacht show, when B&Y Yacht Charter Brokers explored and dined on various yachts, such as Phoenix 2, O'Mega, Naia, and Silver Angel, it was apparent how much art was valued and focused on for the interiors. The idea of 'art' gets drawn out of just the visuals on canvas, and gets pulled into furnishings, such as $350,000 chandeliers or million dollar persian carpeting. The idea of opulence and luxury is exemplified as you walk through what looks less like a five star hotel floating on the water, and more like the Louvre, with an eclectic collection of colours and shapes.

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Superyacht owners will spend millions on classic art pieces by the likes of Monet, Manet, Basquiat, and Picasso. From one point of view, the art piece investments are almost imagined as kept safely inside ideal climate controlled yachts, away from the everyday foot traffic and harsh sunlight. With superyachts often having a crew of 30 members or more, how could any artwork conditions deteriorate with all that attention to detail? However, new controversy has surrounded this opinion, as media publications including The Guardian, Vox, and Bloomberg have all reported that storing multi-million dollar art on yachts could actually be keeping them in harm's way. The obvious argument is that the sea's unpredictable weather conditions offer unexpected consequences, which could be potentially catastrophic. In terms of the lack of protection for the artwork itself, the homely atmosphere that a yacht evokes to its owner's party, or any client charter party, offers a dangerous environment to the safety of the artwork. 

There have been reports of a Basquiat artwork being defaced by cornflakes offered to a child for breakfast while on board a yacht. Another instance reported in shock about a Picasso ruined by the cork of a popped champagne. An expensive piece by Takashi Murakami was disrespectfully cut to properly fit into a space on the lower decks of the yacht. Another superyacht owner hung a Rothko sideways.

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Art historians are chiming in to voice their concerns over the lack of care surrounding these classic artworks for the sake of just showing off wealth. Consultants and art historians are joining forces to train the crew of superyachts in order to completely create the opportunistic environment for these million dollar artworks. One company is known to charge $300 an hour, which is almost seen as a bargain when it comes to understading the care an 80 million dollar art piece needs. In some cases, the artwork could be at least two or three times the value of the vessel it is placed in, and this must be treated as such with higher levels of care. The air around this issue is prioritising art above the vessels, the owners, and the charter clients. The question is, once the artwork is bought by a billionaire, is it okay for them to deface it as their own propety? Is it okay for the public to comment on what happens to the artwork after it no longer is under the care of any museum, private or public institution?

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