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Seven Seas Explorer, a ship framed around the art

At left, a Weidemann hangs in a private dining room while, at right, Frank Del Rio's favorite painting on Seven Seas Explorer, by the Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo, graces the embarkation lobby (Photos: Anne Kalosh)
For all the stresses a chief executive bears building a ship, there are professionals to help—except in the area of choosing art, Frank Del Rio said.

When it came to Seven Seas Explorer, which Regent Seven Seas Cruises touts as the most luxurious ship ever built, Del Rio picked every piece of art. 'I was by myself with the artwork. Nothing stressed me out more,' he disclosed aboard the current pre-inaugural cruise.

The ship is a showcase for art, particularly bold abstract paintings that make dramatic statements against dark wood paneling. A pair of Picassos flank the entrance to the $10,000-a-night Regent Suite, Mirós are in the Master Suites and a Chagall and two Picassos hang in the bar of the Prime 7 steak house. A Weidemann is on the wall of the private dining room between Prime 7 and the French restaurant Chartreuse.

For the past 2.5 years, Del Rio and his wife Marcia spent almost every weekend hunting for art. Some of the works on Seven Seas Explorer he collected in Cuba, the island of his birth, during a family visit in September. These paintings hang in the corridor outside the Meridian Lounge.

Del Rio's favorite piece on board is an abstract painting by Eduardo Arranz-Bravo, who some consider Spain's best living artist. It hangs in the Deck 4 embarkation lobby, leading to the atrium.

Three Spanish artists represented on Seven Seas Explorer, including Arranz-Bravo, visited the ship in Barcelona.

'I think he left dancing, he was so proud,' Del Rio said. Five Arranz-Bravo paintings are in the ship's collection, and the artist told Del Rio he'd like to create some large canvases to go in the aft stairwell in place of the mirrors there now.  

Seven Seas Explorer's most monumental installation is the cast bronze, two-ton Tibetan prayer wheel at the entrance to Pacific Rim, the Asian fusion restaurant. According to the venue's designer, Greg Walton of CallisonRTKL, the piece cost $500,000, but that's not what makes it luxury.

'It's the only one of its kind, hand-made,' Walton said. 'We could have made it lighter if we'd built it of resin, but it would not have been authentic. It is luxury because it is the only one in the world. You're not going to find that anywhere else.'

Del Rio said the hardest aspect of curating the art was choosing some pieces he personally doesn't like. Without those, he explained, it would be a one-dimensional collection, and he wanted the art to appeal to different tastes.