LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Art Afloat - Jeff koons


Introducing Guilty, a yacht so immersed in art that it is an extraordinary piece of sculpture in itself. Designer Ivana Porfiri offers a rare look beyond its stunning Jeff Koons exterior.

With its sculptural and psychedelic design, Guilty is like no other yacht cruising the seas. Ivana Porfiri, the visionary designer behind this groundbreaking project, shares her thoughts on boat design, the importance of innovation and the Guilty's spectacular Jeff Koons external artwork.


At first sight, the sharp lines and arresting exterior of Guilty, a 35.3m yacht launched in June 2008, is utterly shocking. The unconventional design could not be further from the elegant teak decks of the yachts of yesteryear, or the gleaming white behemoths that typify the modern superyacht. Ivana Porfiri, the boat's designer, admits that the first reaction from most people is 'What is that?' The answer to which is multifaceted, for Guilty is part floating home, part gallery-at-sea and part art experiment extraordinaire.

Commissioned in October 2005 by the Greek art collector Dakis Joannou, whose collection of contemporary art has been exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Guilty is crammed full of site-specific art installations by the likes of Anish Kapoor and David Shrigley. Even the colorful exterior of the yacht is the work of Jeff Koons, who was inspired by both the 'camouflage' used by warships in the days before sonar technology and the iconic prints of Roy Lichtenstein.

Ivana Porfiri is the visionary designer who conceived the squared angles of Guilty and made art an intrinsic feature of this boat. From her Milan studio, she discusses the importance of innovation and her desire for Guilty to change the popular notion of what makes a beautiful boat.

Ivana Porfiri's definition of luxury?
I am so far away from luxury that I can't define it. For sure, luxury is not a word that exists in the vocabulary of my life.

If luxury were a moment?
One that is only yours.

If luxury were a person?
Someone who you wish existed.

If luxury were a place?
Somewhere you feel truly alive.

If luxury were an object?
Something you would never exchange.

What was the original brief for the design of Guilty?
This project was always going to be more of an experience than a run of the mill yacht design. From the beginning, we forgot about conventional notions of boat design and focused on a design that was simple, but not obvious. We considered art to be fundamental to the project, rather than just part of the subsequent decoration.

What was the inspiration behind the structure of Guilty?
Our first approach was to define the internal layout, incorporating the owner's needs with the geometry of the external passageways. We then kept these volumes and avoided any stylistic changes to the generated shape. With the resulting sharp and squared upper structure, we saw the potential to use paint in the design, instead of working with the shape. The "camouflage" that we decided on was inspired by the history of warships, and Jeff Koons was a great translator of this.

How did Jeff Koons become involved?
I was collecting a portfolio of historical camouflage images in my office in Milan to propose to the owner. At the same time, the owner was showing Jeff Koons the boat drawings in New York. And Koons said, "Why don't you try to go into the camouflage direction?" The owner was impressed by this coincidence and commissioned Koons to start his studies on this particular type of camouflage. The aim of the artwork was to transform the shape, and to create unexpected perspectives of the boat from different angles, distances and from the reflection in the water.

The owner of the boat, Dakis Joannou, has a vast collection of art. How did you decide which works and artists to incorporate into the project?
The artworks on board did not come from his collection, but were selected specifically for the project. Most of the artists made site-specific pieces, or, like Shrigley, painted their work directly onto the walls of the yacht. With the design art, most pieces were chosen by the owner. But as with every other part of the project, the final considerations and choices were shared by us as a team.

The interior of the yacht is very urbane and akin to a loft apartment. What inspired this?
For me, it is still a floating living space, which means it is still a boat. The interior and exterior design were made with attention to the specific elements of a boat: the materials, the reflections, the movement, the light, and the water. In these photographs you can only see some of those elements, like the furniture, colors, and squared rooms. But for me that is not so important. What is more important is the feeling you have by being there, which is something completely different to the experience of a loft apartment. But unfortunately you cannot take a photograph of that feeling.

Did you intend to revolutionize boat design with this project?
My intention was to explore something that did not exist already. I tried to work on design solutions that did not pander to any conventional notion of what makes a beautiful boat. Guilty is a radical prototype where I experimented and tested potential new solutions. What is revolutionary is to move away from conservative lines of yacht design. But I have to say that Guilty was a serious experiment, and not an exercise in style or an attempt to be eccentric.

What do you think of the current state of yacht design?
I think that more advanced research is necessary in all elements of a boat project. I mean in the development of new models, in the application of new technology, and in the use of different materials and production methods. In my specific field I would say it is especially important to investigate the different lifestyles that living on a boat can offer.

Do you know of any other yachts that have such an interesting external design?
Yachts like Senses, Eco, and Izanami are very impressive. And of course, I fell in love with Wally Power, which I still consider to be a masterpiece of yacht design. Recently I saw a new boat named "A" [designed by Philippe Starck and Martin Francis] which is a great piece of work.

What would your dream yacht look like?
On my drawing table I am working on an idea for a boat with no steps, where I imagine people running around with a dog or a bike, and where it would be possible to rest under a tree - perhaps not a palm tree but an ancient olive tree. With the water and the sky always around, the boat would move very slowly somewhere else, even when it is raining or snowing.


All photos by Andrea Ferrari

More Info

Ivana Porfiri:
+39 0248519357

The Guilty launch party:

Dakis Joannou's DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art:

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