According to the artist Christian Jankowski, he was lucky to be introduced first to Aquariva when he began his search for a suitable yacht manufacturer who would become his collaborator for the 2011 London Frieze Art Fair.

“They’re top of the top in what they do,” Jankowski said at the show on Friday, as the art-fan crowds milled curiously around the 10-metre AquarivaCento, mounted prominently in the middle of the extensive international fair. “This is my found object, and I’m interested in how the crowds engage with it, how the media reacts to it, and ultimately, how potential owners will transform this object into a work of art by agreeing to buy it.”

The Riva normally sells for 525,000 euros, but to purchase it as a work of art—which would include the boat being named “Christian”—the collector would pay 625,000 euros. “I could have just said, an extra 10,000 euros would be fine, but I’m really interested in this very high level of wealth, where that sum of 100,000 euros becomes discretionary, and where the buyer is really, truly committing to owning the boat as art.”

“Christian came to us with an idea that he wanted to do something with yachts for the Frieze Art Fair,” said Gianpaolo Sacchini, Image and Communication Director at Ferretti Group, which operates Riva and CRN, among other marine interests. “For us, it was a truly unique idea, and an interesting way to attract the notice of perhaps a different set of clientele.”

As well as the AquarivaCento, Jankowski’s project includes the sale of a new 68-metre CRN from the Dislopen range. The list price of 65,000,000 euros becomes 75,000,000 euros as a work of art, which would then be named “Jankowski.” “The CRN would likely include some of the artist’s work aboard as well, though that would be a discussion with the eventual owner,” Sacchini said.

Jankowski’s interest in the process of acquiring luxury, as well as in the idea of a boat as an “autonomous object” in nature’s perfect “white cube” setting, led him, after he was approached by Frieze to exhibit a project at the show, to seek out the best manufacturers in the world. His project includes the tender, the CRN yacht, a brief film featuring CRN Sales Director Luca Boldrini explaining the concept, the display at the fair, and the market’s participation in the sale and purchase of a yacht.

“This project is a bit radical: No one has done this before,” Jankowski said. “I’m presenting a boat like an object for sale. But it’s an in-between object: only by involvement does a collector transform this object from not-art into art.” Responding to some critical coverage in the media, Jankowski insisted his work is not ironic. “I’m interested in what’s going on in the heads of these billionaires. If we find a buyer, this work of art moves into stage two: I’d like to learn about this process of ownership and explore that.”

This is not, incidentally the first yacht or yacht design to transition from pure craftsmanship into the rarefied world of contemporary art. In 2010, French artist Xavier Veilhan produced an entirely blue yacht tender called RAL 5015, in collaboration with the Frauscher shipyard on Lake Traunsee in Austria, makers of deluxe tenders and runaboats.

The opportunity for Ferretti Group to display their work as art is the latest twist in a trend of superyacht manufacturers taking advantage of unique opportunities to market their work in previously unconventional ways. This Spring, Watkins Superyachts began marketing their sales and yacht management services through the shop windows at Harrods, for instance.

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