A Floating Showcase for British Art – with new video content

Saga’s new ship Spirit of Discovery, which launches later this year, will feature a bold new initiative to exhibit more than 400 works of art created by British-based artists. Peter Morrell reports

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Saga Cruises are giving a massive boost to the art scene in the UK by commissioning work from 45 British based artists and design studios to create works for their new custom-built ship. I recently met the team responsible for curating this exciting compilation of more than 400 works which will showcase the sheer strength and diversity of British art.

At the meeting was Saga’s New Build Director, David Pickett and Emmie Ratter and Ben Wilson from SMC Design. It’s SMC’s job to devise the décor of the entire ship which can best be described as classic contemporary – cool and sophisticated.

The team, who are all highly enthusiastic about this project, have assembled a collection that dovetails perfectly with the ship’s contemporary interior design. This combination will create a pleasing and calming continuum. The works are not just paintings but an eclectic mix of papercuts, glassware, ceramics, embroidery and sculptures, the largest being over 12 metres in height.

Much of the art is inspired by the environment and heritage of the artists. For example, Evelyn Binns turned to nature for her delicate botanical watercolours. Ewan Eason has produced detailed antique maps, including an intriguing one of London and Chuan Jia’s work has a delightful oriental theme.

For passengers wanting to explore the entire collection, there is a self-guided tour that will take them around the ship. The tour booklet will describe the background of the artists and the works they have created. The collection is not just on display in the public areas as paintings, both originals and prints, will also decorate the cabins and suites.

For those who have their creative spark triggered by the tour or by seeing the artwork, Spirit of Discovery will have a dedicated arts and crafts studio. Passengers who are more artistically passive can visit the onboard art gallery. This will hold revolving collections of works and there will be the opportunity to meet the artists and hear them discuss their art.

Interestingly the collection is not just an add-on to the ship but an intrinsic part of its design. This ensures that all the works are in harmony with the decor and that they are exhibited safely and securely. Care has also been taken to match the art to its location, be it the spa, restaurants, bars or library.

I was highly impressed with this initiative. Not only is the seven-figure sum being invested a great vote of confidence in British art but it also gives a great deal of exposure to individual artists and the creative community in general.

Spirit of Discovery

Launching in summer 2019, Spirit of Discovery’s inaugural cruise from Dover (a 13 night itinerary around the British Isles) has already sold out and sales of most other itineraries are well ahead of expectations, with itineraries featuring the Norwegian Fjords, the Baltic and the Mediterranean, as well as autumn itineraries from Southampton to destinations including the Canaries and a Christmas cruise to New York.  Prices start from £849 per person, two sharing, for a four night cruise visiting French ports Cherbourg, St Malo and Le Havre departing from Dover on 3rd October and returning to Dover on 7th October.

Initially full board, from January 2020 Spirit of Discovery will become all inclusive, including all house spirits, wine, beer and soft drinks as part of Saga’s comprehensive cruise package, as well as all gratuities, a UK travel service and free wifi on board. The shop will also feature ‘The Club by Jools’, Saga Cruises’ first-ever endorsed onboard steakhouse and bar, with live performances from Jools Holland on specific sailings.

For further information or to book on Spirit of Discovery, call Saga on 0800 505030 or visit saga.co.uk/cruise