The art of travelling well

Restaurants, bars, cinemas and sun-decks provide the more obvious ways to pass the time onboard. But here at Brittany Ferries we have always provided another, more subtle attraction throughout our ships, in cabins, lounges and restaurants: a carefully curated selection of original, commissioned artwork, often with a specific relevance to the vessel you're aboard, or the route you're sailing.

Galicia is no exception. And just like her interior design and her food, her art draws inspiration chiefly from the region of Spain from which she takes her name.

"Galicia is quite distinctive from the rest of Spain, in its climate, its culture and its coastline," says Kimberly Poppe, the artist who worked alongside Brittany Ferries' strategy director Catherine Querné to commission the new ship's art collection. 

Artist: klunderbie. Interior photography: klunderbie

"It's greener, and it has these wild, rocky shores, and weather that's a little more like the British Isles. It has its own language, and wonderful music that has a direct Celtic connection to Brittany and Ireland especially. We wanted to capture that in an authentic way, and reveal something fascinating about Galicia before you've disembarked."

"So we collaborated with different artists, designers and writers to evoke Galicia and bring its culture alive. And it was also very important to us that we used artists and even poets who are themselves Galician, who know this place better than anyone else."

The artwork aboard Galicia encompasses a wide range of media including photography, paintings and sculptures. The 'Klunderbie' duo of Nienke Klunder & Wiglius de Bie are Dutch artists, photographers and art directors who now live in Spain (www.klunderbie.com). Their extensive portfolio includes commissions for Christian Dior, Swarovski and Elle. Playful still life work, in landscape and portrait, will adorn the walls of the Azul restaurant and Taberna de Tapas. 

Artist: klunderbie. Interior photography: klunderbie

Galician photographer Xan Padron (www.xanpadron.com) lives mainly in Manhattan, but a two-week stay at his eighteenth-century stone cottage back home turned into six months over lockdown. He used the time to shoot the work passengers will enjoy in the travel lounge, bar and in the reading lounges. The post-lunch round of 'brisca', a Galician card game is just one part of his focus on “castros”, Galician fortified villages, to be found in one of the ship’s lounges.

There’s artist Kimberly's own, contemplative photography too (www.kimberlypoppe.com), shot during a trip around the region's often-deserted coastline and cities, and along the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. Her keen eye reveals detail that visitors may otherwise overlook.

Artistic styles combine in a cocktail of harmony: there are playful paintings by Spanish artist Javier Ortas (www.javierortas.com) and unique compositions in sand by New Yorker Mark Van Wagner. Look out too for graphic designs by artist Noemi Biro revealing something of the uniqueness of Galicia and for walls adorned with quotations from great Galician writers of the past.  

Artist: Javier Ortas. Interior photography: klunderbie

Galicia has a distinct language and long tradition of story telling. So the work of six Galician women poets, will be hosted in the information lounge. "It's important, but it's not the kind of information you'd expect to find at the information desk," Kimberly remarks.

The ship's second artistic theme is 'Las Meninas', or the ladies-in-waiting. The original painting by the Spanish master Velázquez from 1656 is, in Kimberly's words, 'among the most studied and reproduced works in the history of art', and the distinctive figures of the young princess and her two attendants with their broad hooped skirts have been endlessly reprised. 

Artist: Alredo Palmero. Interior photography: klunderbie

Picasso and Dali both reinterpreted the Meninas (Picasso fifty-eight times) and it has even inspired a major public-art festival in Madrid, in which around 20 life-size Meninas statues, often in bold colours, created by artists or other personalities, are displayed in the city's streets each Autumn.  These are then sold at auction, with the proceeds going to charity. 

Brittany Ferries has acquired two of 2019's statues for display in the ship’s C-Club VIP lounge, along with modern interpretation of Las Meninas by contemporary Spanish artist Alfredo Palmero and UK artist Nicholas de Lacy Brown. A canvas of the original Velázquez painting hangs too, alongside prints of some of Picasso's work and twenty smaller Meninas statuettes by different artists. 

It all adds up to an impressively broad and revealing collection: there to discover if you choose. It’s also a project that artists seemed to love too.

"This was absolutely my most unusual commission, and my most exciting," says the photographer Xan Padron. "In Galicia, our language and culture is very clearly defined, and quite different to other parts of Spain. When people in New York ask me about flamenco, I tell them that I don't relate to it at all. We relate more to northern Portugal and Andalucia, and of course to the Celtic nations, with whom we've always connected by sea. So when Kimberly told me that the commission was for a ship, and what its name would be, I was engaged from that very moment. This is a land I really love, and it's an honour to represent it like this."

Artist: Kimberly Poppe. Interior photography: klunderbie

Klunderbie agree. "The presence of the Atlantic, the granite rocks, the green and fertile land, the wind and the traces of the Celts, together make Galicia a very intriguing place," they say. "The inhabitants we met are strong characters, brave and, just like the region, a bit mysterious. We wanted to give Galicia's passengers a peek into what we believe Galicia stands for: its people and traditions, the traditional clothing, the landscapes. We wanted to show more than just a pretty image."

"Our jobs are never the same, but this is definitely the first time that we've made art to travel continuously between two countries. That's new to us, and sounds very romantic."