Webinar Interview with Pandora Mather-Lees, founder of Art On Superyachts

This webinar interview series with art world industry experts, recorded exclusively for Sotheby’s Institute of Art, reveals the stories behind decades of experience in collecting, managing and curating collections.

In this interview with Pandora Mather-Lees, Founder of Art On Superyachts, we learn of her expert tips for art display and conservation on luxury marine vessels.

Webinar Transcript

And welcome to this ArtRatio Expert Interview, conducted exclusively for Sotheby’s Institute of Art. I’m delighted to be joined today by Pandora Mather-Lees of ArtOnSuperyachts.com. Pandora is an art historian and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts with experience at board level in the art sector, most notably as Vice President of Global Sales at Artnet, and as Managing Director of Bridgeman Art Library. Pandora holds a first-class degree in the history of art from Manchester University and a Master’s in Ancient History from Keble College, Oxford. Welcome Pandora.

Hello Manoj. I’m delighted to be here and it’s been a pleasure to lecture to Sotheby’s students in the past too. So, today I’d like to talk about some of my work in training the captains and crew with art on yachts. I found generally that the risks involved fall into three broad categories. There’s the kind of the export legal sanctions risk, there’s the environment and climate control risks and then of course there’s human intervention. And human intervention may involve theft, neglect, accidents, or even deliberate damage. So of these three, I’d like to talk about this human factor today. So the human factor is one of our 10 agents of deterioration that we talk about when we are looking at conservation of art and today.

I’d like to talk about Andy Warhol’s brillo box sculpture, which was delivered to a superyacht along with eight containers of goods ready to go aboard the yacht and await guests and go on its journey. Of course, typically with one of these situations, the interior designer often will specify what goes on board and then will do the design and in this case it was no different. There were a lot of crew milling around ready on the dock.

It was a 70 meter vessel, so it’s quite a big vessel, and what actually happened was that this work of art ended up thrown in the wheelie bin. Now, if I had made that up, you wouldn’t believe it. But this is something that did actually happen so what actually happened in the end was the interior designer managed to find it, thank goodness, but then after that it fared little better. It was then placed by the interior designer near the aft-deck doors on the yacht, so it was going to be exposed from one side particularly to all the elements, so the climatic elements of temperature, light, heat, and saline air. The chief stewardess tried very hard to get the interior designer to move this object from the plinth right by these doors. Unfortunately, he wasn’t going to do it because it was part of his very special design.

Eventually the stewardess got in front of the owner, in front of the painting, and she said to him “You might as well tear up 50 Euro notes standing in front of your beautiful piece of pop art from the 1960s”. So it didn’t take very long after that for the owner who then realized about the conservation of the work to move the piece to another place. So what we have here is the human intervention and then we also have the climatic control problems. So art is one of the only appreciating assets we have onboard a super yacht so it’s very very important for the owner and crew to understand how to enjoy that art safely. So I guess the final message here is that the key issues were ignorance, putting aesthetics before conservation, and then also haste because in fact what I didn’t mention was that this was a job that had to be done very very quickly because they had to get all the objects on board and get afloat within a certain time period. So, three very important elements with logistics.

Thank you very much Pandora. This has been very illuminating and I’m sure Sotheby’s Institute students will find great value in what you’re saying. Have a good day going ahead, Pandora. Thank you.

Thanks, Manoj.