The naked lady with large hat, accompanied by a crying cherub, hangs outside a Deck 5 restroom on the Oceania Riviera, one of the newest ships cruising out of Miami.
The artwork is a lithograph signed in red crayon by Pablo Picasso.
“It’s a beautiful drawing of a woman, so I thought the best place for it was that location. A women’s bathroom is worthy of a Picasso,” said Frank Del Rio, chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, parent of the upscale Oceania Cruises line.
Perhaps due to the location, passengers onboard the 1,250-passenger Riviera who noticed the drawing doubted it was authentic. But it’s one of 16 original signed Picasso prints in the ship’s extensive art collection, personally curated by Del Rio, and focusing on Latin art.
Oceania Cruises is not alone in bringing high art to the high seas.
Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Oceania’s sister line Regent Seven Seas, for instance, are investing in collectible and museum-worthy contemporary art. The artwork on the ships includes original works and limited-edition signed prints. Paintings, sculptures photography and even, in the case of Celebrity, video and architecturally-integrated installations are part of the collections.
While Del Rio won’t share the cost, the 1,000-work collection on Riviera is a prime example of how big bucks are being spent on cruise ship art that’s worth more than a passing glance. The collections include works by well-known artists.
Del Rio said he relished weekends spent at Christie’s auctions as he bid on artwork for the Riviera and sister ship Marina, which debuted in 2011.
The collection on Riviera includes the original work of artists from Cuba’s vanguard movement — a Wilfredo Lam here, a Cundo Bermudez there — as well as contemporary Cuban artists including Julio Larraz, Humberto Benitez, Manuel Mendive and José Grillo.
Boldly colored views of the sea by Catalonian master Eduardo Arranz-Bravo hang in a lounging spot in the reception area.
There are also works specially commissioned for the ship, including by Cuban artist Carlos Luna. “These are pieces that would be selling for hundreds of thousands and we were very fortunate that he was very enthused about having his art at sea. He thought it was pretty nifty,” Del Rio said.
At nearly every turn on Riviera there is an art lover’s attraction, but Del Rio said more than just art appreciation is at play.
“I wanted the ships to have a warm, residential feel. We don’t want these ships to look like typical cruise ships, and we didn’t want an institutional, robotic art collection or mediocre art,” Del Rio said. “I’d rather have no art than mediocre art. I hate fake. I hate copies.”
There is also a bottom line involved. High quality art onboard helps set a high-class tone, he said. “This level of client sweats the details and therefore we need to sweat the details,” Del Rio said.
Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean, agreed art makes an impression, though he said he believed a “relatively small percentage” of the line’s passengers care enough about the art to seek it out.
“The large majority of our guests are not specifically cognizant of the art, but it definitely contributes to their overall appreciation for the quality of the ship that we put in the marketplace,” Goldstein said. “Most guests do not comment about the art. They comment about the wait staff and the stateroom attendants, etc.”