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Aboard the ARTEXPLORER: A Floating Museum Powered by Crestron
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2023
Aboard the ARTEXPLORER: A Floating Museum Powered by Crestron

Crestron technology powers the centerpiece of a traveling "art festival"

When Frédéric Jousset was approaching his 50s, he decided it was time to turn his attention to his first love — art. A co-founder of Webhelp, an IT support firm that morphed into a call center operations and business support enterprise, Jousset harbors a lifelong love of fine art. His mother, in fact, was a curator at the Centre Pompidou of contemporary art, and Jousset himself has become an integral part of the Louvre, working in the museum's administration, acquisition, and outreach efforts.

Webhelp had grown into a multi-billion-euro interest with more than 50,000 employees when Jousset decided to change direction. By 2019, he'd determined it was time to use his personal resources to help bring fine art to a broader audience. He founded the Art Explora fund, "an international foundation that inspires new encounters between arts and audiences – locally, nationally, and internationally." One of those new encounters is being created right now: the ARTEXPLORER sailing catamaran, a yacht that will do double duty as both a charter vessel and the immersive centerpiece of a traveling museum when it launches later this year.

An "Art Festival Village"

The center "tunnel" of the catamaran will be encased in removable LED panels that surround the viewer, displaying 16 meters of high-resolution images that support the masterworks that accompany the catamaran on its travels. "She will be more docked in very famous places in the next two years," explains Guy Butterati, VP and co-founder of the integration firm Akumendo. The yacht will spend half of each year going from port to port around the Mediterranean, supported by what Butterati calls an "art festival village" — the actual artwork on display will travel in portable viewing structures on shore alongside other amenities, such as food trucks and the like.

"Admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis," says Butterati. The first show will be thematic, he adds: "The central topic is going to be the representation of women in Mediterranean art through the ages." From ancient Greece up to mid-19th century artists, the female form, as interpreted via sculpture and painting, will be on display for the fall 2023 to 2025 tour, the yacht's first. "Although the owner's tastes lean to the contemporary, the mission of Art Explora is to be 'period agnostic,'" Butterati says.

Why a Floating Museum?

The Art Explora group explains why they put a yacht at the center of their traveling art show:

  • We believe that mobility is a powerful tool to reach new audiences and increase engagement with the arts
  • Boats are a powerful symbol of exploration, with a unique history of adventure and discovery
  • On this journey, we can connect worlds, peoples, and cultures, creating new opportunities for co-creation, participation, and exchange.
  • We can reach new audiences: 60% of the world's population live less than 60km from the coast

The Onboard Technology

Although the yacht is massive — the main mast will top out at more than 55 meters — marine integrations are always cramped affairs. "It's an incredible challenge to find space for all the devices and cabling a project like this demands," explains Jean-Pierre Casanova, Akumendo's CEO (and co-founder). Fortunately, though, Butterati and Casanova have years of experience with marine integrations and a tremendously helpful partner in the animation and AV firm Arscénique.

When the yacht is configured for museum duties, the primary presentation in the "tunnel" is an advanced digital show with multi-channel audio and a massive LED image. "The space can accommodate more than 30 people at once, surrounded by a full 1.5-millimeter pitch LED with excellent color saturation and contrast," says Butterati. Designed to handle roughly 2,000 visitors per day, displays and audio sources (including presentations via headphones) on the rest of the boat and on shore deliver a variety of immersive content designed to be as educational as it is beautiful. The LED display — a series of curved panels ingeniously held in place by magnets — can be removed, and the space then becomes a living, lounging, and movie-viewing area for owner and guests when the catamaran sails for leisure.

Powered by Crestron

That content is delivered by Crestron DM NVX® AV-over-IP solutions. "We created systems that were restrained but elegant," says Butterati. "That's why deploying Crestron gear was important — it's a luxury brand that's well-known."

He explains the integration process: "First, we built the AV and IT systems for the guests. The challenge was then making that system adaptable when the removable panels of the LED tunnel are installed for its museum missions." By working with Crestron to find solutions that could handle, for example, both 5.1 surround-sound entertainment options for chartered guests and audio support for the LED display, Butterati feels they've achieved a multi-purpose solution that's state-of-the-art.

The onboard system needs to tie into the onshore village, too. "We turned to Crestron to help with delivering content to the dockside displays," says Casanova. "But beyond that, we also relied on Crestron control and automation systems to handle everything from lights and shading to the needs of the crew and chartered guests when the yacht is at sea," he notes.

"One of the biggest challenges was the distance between the LED panels and the main rack. Crestron had the answer using fiber optics and the Crestron DM NVX system," says Casanova.

"The team at Crestron has always, always been about helping us find solutions."