Displaying Art Collections on Superyachts

Extremes in temperature, humidity and light can damage fragile collections of art and luxury items exhibited at sea. We recommend special protection when displaying your treasure on a superyacht.

Picture of Manoj Phatak

Manoj Phatak

Displaying Art At Sea

Marine environments are particularly prone to extremes in sunlight, temperature, humidity, air quality and vibration. 

Sunlight is composed of about 50% infrared, which you feel as heat when you place your hand under the sun. Heat can dry out works on paper and textiles, causing cracking and embrittlement. 

Sunlight also contains ultraviolet (UV), which is the most damaging to artworks.

Whereas water reflects about 10% of UV, sea foam reflects 25% (according to the World Health Organisation), increasing the chances that the reflected radiation can reach fragile artworks.

So, while superyachts are not especially suited to displaying art, the good news is that practical measures are available to reduce risk so you can combine a splendid view of the ocean with a sumptuous view of your art.

Let’s look at some of the unique challenges facing a sea-bound art collection:-

Sea Spray

Sea spray is composed of aerosol particles (a suspension of fine solids), formed by the ejection of organic matter and inorganic salts into the atmosphere. 

This occurs when bubbles burst at the ocean surface and are carried by the wind, posing a risk to art displayed without protection on a superyacht.

The danger lies in the pollutants found in the air, since these inorganic salts can react with art materials, causing colour fading in photographs and chemical degradation in metals.

More UV at Mid-Latitudes

As you sail blissfully into sunnier waters, take note that UV increases as you approach the equator. 

This is because sunlight has a shorter distance to travel through the absorbing gasses of the atmosphere. The extra UV-B gives us all a nice suntan but is highly detrimental to your art collection.

Also, radiation levels are at their most dangerous under a cloudless sky but be aware also that thin clouds may in fact increase UV exposure due to scattering.

How to Display Art on Superyachts

Any art display case should incorporate anti-glare, anti-static and anti-reflective glass and be hung away from direct light sources.

The display case would ideally be made using powder-coated steel, avoiding wood since it is a hygroscopic material, which expands and contracts with changes in relative humidity.

Furthermore, newer technologies are now available, such as smart glass display cases and frames, to reduce light exposure to only the time when someone is actually viewing the artworks.

If you combine this with UV films on outward-facing galley windows as well as the occasional textile curtain, there is no excuse for letting your investment in art drop to the bottom of the sea like an anchor.

Watch Out for Those Waves

All art displayed on any kind of marine vessel needs ideally to be fixed in position to avoid injury to people and of course to avoid damage to the object itself when you get those 6m high waves. 

This is especially important for decorative objects, such as sculptures, busts and vases. 

Ideally, each object would be encased and solidly affixed to provide maximum protection against physical damage as well as damage from the elements.

Black Box Art Insurance

Art insurance is normally contracted separately for high-value art collections on superyachts, since the art collection can be worth more than the vessel itself in some cases.

The art world could benefit from a recent trend in the automotive sector for ‘black-box insurance‘ (often called ‘telematics insurance’). 

In this model, the insurer requests co-placement of a telematics device in close proximity to the artwork to monitor its condition and to calculate the risk to the collection in real-time.

In an extreme example, if the artwork were to degrade entirely, the insurer would lose the premium, their main source of income. It is in the interests of art insurers to protect the market value of art, since premiums are tied to this value.

Any proactive measures to prove you are a ‘good collector’ could be thus rewarded with reduced premiums, just as ‘good drivers’ are rewarded in the automotive world.


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Check Out Our Installations

If you are thinking of displaying your art on a superyacht, take a look at some of our installations for private collectors and museums on ‘terra firma’:-

  • original works by Sir Isaac Newton for a private collector in London
  • the original map of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo at the Royal Engineers Museum
  • 15th century Books of Hours at the Swedish Nationalmuseum