In the spring of 2001, Michael Binkley was invited to enter an international competition to realize three large sculptures for Cunard Line’s newest vessel, the Queen Mary 2, the most famous ocean liner of our time ©. A year later, he won the competition and began designing three sea shell sculptures which were to be installed in the ship’s spa, to be operated by the Canyon Ranch SpaClub.
There is a permanent, $5 million fine art collection aboard the Queen Mary 2 consisting of works by 128 artists from 64 different countries. Binkley is the only artist from Canada commissioned to produce original fine art for the ship’s art collection. This was a significant commission in this his career and his most famous sculptures to date. To be associated with the Queen Mary 2 and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub was an honour.
The three large seashell sculptures are located around the thalassotherapy pool of the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. The SpaClub, located forward on Deck Seven, is 20,000 square feet and the largest, most luxurious spa at sea.
Binkley worked in collaboration with Onderneming & Kunst, an art consulting firm from Amsterdam, The Netherlands and with representatives from Cunard Line Ltd. in Miami, FL, USA. The Queen Mary 2 was constructed at the Alstom Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyards in St. Nazaire, France.
The shell sculptures consist of two, mirror image Nautilus Shells and one Whelk Shell. The twin Nautilus Shells are at one end of the therapy pool and a waterfall cascades between them. The large Whelk Shell is at the opposite end of the pool. Binkley gave each sculpture a silky smooth matte finish that is wonderful to the touch and best accentuates the colour and striations of the marble.
Since the sculptures sit beside a pool, no part of them could be in danger of holding or collecting water. They also had to be hollowed out, so lights hidden in the pedestals would give the sculptures a soft glow in the calming, dim light of the pool room. For this reason, Binkley chose the beautiful Carrara statuario marble for its translucent quality, and calming white colour with veining of light grey.