Cosmic Brownies – Psychedelic Artists Commissioned To Paint New York’s Next Mega-Cruise Ship

John Konrad
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October 7, 2011

Of modern art American essayist Clement Greenberg said, “All profoundly original art looks ugly at first.” But does it belong on a ship?

In a possible attempt to make a profound statement, Norwegian Cruise Line announced today that modern art pop icon, Peter Max, has been commissioned to design the hull artwork for the line’s newest ship, Norwegian Breakaway, scheduled for delivery in April 2013. This is the first time Norwegian has asked a well-known artist to paint the hull artwork on one of its ships. The company also announced today that the ship will homeport year-round in Max’s hometown, New York City.

Although this may be a first for Norwegian Cruise Lines, this is not the first for the maritime industry.  In 2006, Osaka Gas commissioned Comedian-turned-painter Jimmy Onishi to design monster-sized psychedelic murals for their 950-foot LNG vessel Dreamtanker and countless other companies have experimented with hull art, most with insipid – or plain ugly – results.

But banality is not a signature of Max who is know for his eccentric use of colors and patterns, a psychedelic style of art referred to in the art community as “Cosmic Brownies”. He has also been called a Pop Icon, Neo Fauvist, Abstract Expressionist and the United States’ “Painter Laureate.” Some experts refer to him as this country’s greatest living artist but like the ship itself, Max was not born in American. As a German Jew born in 1937, he and his family escaped the Nazis in 1938, arriving in America after first living in Shanghai, Israel and Paris…. experiences which greatly enriched Peter’s appreciation of art.

“Since Norwegian Breakaway will be making her home in New York, we felt it was fitting to ask the artist best associated with New York, Mr. Peter Max, to paint the ship’s hull,” said Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s chief executive officer. “I am a huge fan of his work and know that the art he creates for Norwegian Breakaway will make the ship instantly recognizable.”

While many artists would scoff at the idea of painting a big, box-shaped, steel ship, Peter Max is excited by the idea. “I love painting large canvases.” He said. ” I’ve painted a plane and a stage for Woodstock, but never a ship. I love ships and have travelled on them many times in my life. To see my artwork floating on Norwegian Breakaway out at sea will be a dream come true.”

The Artist Peter Max
Peter Max

Max has achieved his place in history having painted for various Heads of State, including six U.S. Presidents. From art that appeared on the first U.S. 10-cent stamp bearing the title “Preserve the Environment,” to 235 U.S. Border murals greeting millions of people entering America each year, Peter Max seeks to capture themes of America at its finest in his art.

Max also has a long-standing career turning commerce into works of art. Currently his art appears on a Boeing 777 jumbo jet currently flying the skies for Continental; a 600-foot stage for the Woodstock Music Festival; the covers of Verizon’s New York City yellow and white pages; and a giant mural unveiled at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Max has also been the Official Artist of five Super Bowls, six Grammy Awards, The World Series, the United Nations Earth Summit, and numerous other countless other events.

The 144,017 ton vessel is reported to have 4,000 passenger berths and was named with the idea to give passengers a “break away” from the routine of work and daily stress to find respite at sea. The Norwegian Breakaway’s sister ship, Norwegian Getaway, scheduled for delivery in April 2014 but has yet to be assigned a city.

The ship also comes with the support of New York politicians which have been actively recruiting more ships since signing a homeport agreement with Disney Cruise Line in April. The Breakaway will dock at the 50th Street Cruise Terminal in Manhattan and, as the largest cruise ship to ever call the city home, is estimated to bring to New York over 40,000 passengers and and $35 million in direct spending over the next two years.

“It boils down to one word, jobs” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “By making New York City home to its newest and largest ship, Norwegian Cruise Line is further confirming our standing as a top cruise destination and a place that tourists from around the world want to visit.”

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