Forging a Passage


Dutch Ships in a Foreign Port, Jan Abrahamsz. Beerstraten, 1658. Riksmuseum collection.

What is the Rijksmuseum thinking? While received wisdom has other museums and institutions worried about policing intellectual property in the age of effortless digital reproduction, the august Amsterdam museum is positively encouraging the public to copy the priceless and famed works of art from its massive collection.

Their Rijksstudio initiative encourages online users to search their digitised archive and make their own virtual ‘collection’ and share it through channels such as social media. With a typically Dutch left-field approach, while other institutions aggressively mark out their copyright territory, the Rijksmuseum sees the very threat as a marketing and educational opportunity. By encouraging huge new potential audiences to engage with their collection, its cultural value and importance are underscored.

An even more intriguing development for Rijksstudio is its forthcoming collaboration with the Holland America Line, a heritage shipping line that was once the main passenger service between the Netherlands and the USA, but today is a luxury cruise operator. Their brand spanking new liner, the MS Koningsdam will be launched this week. Among its delights, passengers will be able to visit the Rijksmuseum at Sea. Described by the museum as “a creative salon”, passengers will be able to admire works from the collection… Hold on. Really? No, not really. Rather they can admire sanctioned reproductions of famous works from the collection and join in with drawing and painting activities. Yes, that sounds more viable: we’d love to see the marine underwriter prepared to cover the cost of Rijksmuseum originals swanning around the globe on the open ocean.

Nonetheless, it’s important to note Holland America Line’s long and serious engagement with art and design. Its vessels have always taken a bold stance with interiors and art works commissioned from leading artists and designers of the day. For example, the fleet has a collection of more than 1,300 art works displayed on-board. And this passion for the modern and contemporary shows no sign of abating with the MS Koningsdam where the preview of the interiors shows them to be far more in keeping with a top contemporary design hotel than the tried-n-tested resort décors of many other cruise ships. And so they should be: Holland America Line engaged lauded hotel and restaurant designer Adam D. Tihany to take charge of all the hospitality spaces. Tihany Design is, of course, the studio of choice of top restaurants and leading luxury hotel chains such as Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental.

The cutting-edge interiors are also home to an offer of on-board activities developed for a younger – or at least younger-thinking – passenger list. For example, along with all the pools, live shows and things you’d expect on any large cruise ship, the MS Koningsdam will offer Blend, the first wine blending facility at sea where passengers can create their own blend under the watchful eye of vaunted Chateau Ste. Michelle. Or there’s the Digital Workshop “powered by Windows” where you can brush up your ICT skills – though we guess Mac users won’t really feel that welcome. And there’s even the Culinary Arts Center, presented by Food & Wine Magazine where cooking demonstrations and hands-on classes will be offered to passengers by celebrity chefs. In other words, the on-board activities offered are just as in keeping with up-to-date lifestyles as the interiors. What more could you ask for as you glide from one Caribbean island to another or up the coast of Alaska?


The Main Dining Room on the MS Koningsdam designed by Tihany Design.

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