How certified art can innovate aircraft design


Contemporary cabin design for private aircraft is increasingly moving towards creating ‘liveable’ spaces. Art is a key consideration for adding a sense of comfort in the cabin, and offers the opportunity to incorporate the client’s personal taste. Sourcing artworks for aircraft, however, requires a more specialised set of considerations than is typically needed in other luxury contexts.

Crucially, all materials used have to meet the necessary aviation regulations, including flammability, toxicity, weight and structural requirements. By collaborating with designers and understanding their vision for the project, designers can develop artwork concepts that push the boundaries of aircraft interior design.

Luxury design often seeks to incorporate bespoke elements in interiors, to offer clients something they have not seen before. Artworks that have been custom-made for a project are an excellent way to create a one-of-a-kind space. By referencing the subtleties of the design scheme, a specially commissioned artwork can significantly enhance the aesthetic experience of space.

For an aircraft, however, customising art is not only an aesthetic choice, but a necessary way of ensuring artworks are suitable for the cabin environment. Art consultants can combine artistic expertise with aviation industry experience to deliver a product that is ready for use in the cabin. The result is an art collection which is worthy of the impeccable standards of high-end interiors, yet meticulously meets all the technical regulations of aircraft.

Complete onboard art collections can tie together the overall interior design between different spaces, and therefore strengthen the impact of ambitious design concepts. In a recently delivered custom-made art collection for a BBJ 737 project, Artelier worked with an aircraft owner who wanted Impressionist-style wall murals throughout the cabin. In total, 20 large-scale artworks were commissioned, and displayed in various spaces in the aircraft.

In some cabins, the wall artworks offered an Impressionistic glimpse into iconic European scenery; elsewhere the intended impact was more dramatic. For the cinema room, Artelier took inspiration from the permanent display of Monet’s water lily paintings: they are painted on curved panels, and span across every wall of the space. When displayed together, they create a tranquil atmosphere, and immerse the viewers in nature. The concept for the aircraft cinema space was to similarly envelop viewers in the calming wall paintings, utilising the aircraft’s own curved walls.

After sourcing a distinguished painter capable of undertaking such a commission, as art consultants Artelier worked closely with the artist so that certified materials were used in every aspect. For the painting surface, curved wall panels were created together with the completion centre, which were then wrapped in specialist canvases.

The client wanted the artworks to feel authentically Impressionist, and so the artist employed the Impressionist ‘impasto’ painting technique, where paint is layered thickly onto the canvas. Due to the quantity of paint used in this technique, the paint had a real bearing on the flammability qualities, and so it was necessary to develop a paint mixture certifiable for aircraft. Aircraft-certified artist paint is not commercially available, and so this required extensive research and testing, including burn tests for flammability and toxicity. After several months of trials, it was possible to develop a paint mixture that was suitable for completing the commission. Finding solutions to meet regulations requires specialist experience, to deliver an end result that does not feel limited to the constraints of aircraft interiors.

TV rollers and sliders

While artworks can be incorporated into many areas on board an aircraft, contexts which are functional as well as decorative have a special appeal for clients. Commissioning artworks to discreetly conceal blank IFE screens is an attractive option, as art can be displayed within an existing element of the design, and enhance a normally mundane feature. TV rollers and sliders have therefore been a growing trend for private aircraft, as well as other luxury environments like residences and yachts. However, they often use fairly basic printed designs.

Using collectable contemporary art instead of prints offers something new, and adds a personalised element to interiors. Artelier has pioneered this approach, and developed specialist roller artworks for the aviation industry. Collaborating with artists who work across a range of styles and mediums, TV rollers can be made to suit any client’s personal tastes.

The level of customisation this allows pushes the artistic boundaries for TV rollers, as rather than being limited to prints, they can be made of more sophisticated mediums such as paint on canvas. With the necessary expertise, the canvases can be adapted to be technically suitable for integration into the aircraft interior, as well as repeatedly rolling or sliding down the front of IFE screens. A key benefit of commissioning these unique pieces is that their roller mechanisms are specifically designed to make artworks removable. The artworks can therefore be re-stretched for use in a more conventional context should the client choose.

Reinventing feature wall art

Feature walls have become a mainstay in various interiors, due to their ability to create impact and atmosphere. Due to the limitations of aviation-grade materials, however, feature walls within aircraft are often off-the-shelf options. While some may have visually pleasing designs, they rarely offer true originality. By using bespoke artworks, however, a much more refined aesthetic can be achieved.

To address this, Artelier has developed Artist Walls, a collection of leading contemporary artists who are capable of working large-scale, to produce feature wall artworks that not only create striking wall finishes, but customised collectors’ pieces. Each contemporary mural artwork is created especially for its context, allowing it to integrate perfectly into the design as well as meet practical needs.

Working with an art consultant makes the commissioning process straightforward, as they have extensive art project management expertise to oversee the development of the artwork and adapt it to the unique needs of an aircraft.

Due to the creative possibilities of custom mural art, aircraft interiors have more scope for being imaginative. These murals also do not need to be limited to walls; for a current commission that is under development, Artelier is working with an artist to create a ceiling installation from gold leaf. The ceiling mural spans the full length of the aircraft, and is inspired by the sky. At one end of the aircraft, the gold leaf resembles cloud forms on a pale blue background, and subtly transitions from day to dusk as it extends to the bedroom, where the swirling clouds begin to look like stars against a midnight blue background.

Refined bathrooms

An elegant aircraft bathroom is an essential space for rejuvenation, and decorating it with artworks is an especially effective way of creating a sense of tranquillity. Custom art is an integral element of aircraft bathroom design, as commissioning bespoke artworks allows them to be specially tailored to the technical requirements of the aircraft, and to the heat and steam of the wellness features.

With the relevant expertise and knowledge of artistic materials, an art consultant can help choose mediums that are suitable. Porcelain and ceramic artworks are ideal options, as they can naturally withstand moisture.

For previous commissions, Artelier has developed lighter ceramic artworks specifically for use in aircraft. Glass art is also an excellent option for bathrooms, as it is easy to clean and resistant to water; such artworks can be created from aviation-grade glass, at the request of the client.

Artelier has also sourced artists who work on aluminium panels, which are then coated with a bathroom-grade lacquer to ensure the artwork’s longevity. Bathroom artworks, however, do not have to be limited to these options. The benefit of working with an art consultant is that any vision can be accommodated, with specially devised solutions for adapting artworks to the context of an aircraft bathroom.

Specialist framing and presentation

To achieve an air of luxury in interior design, it is also necessary to consider high-quality presentation. This is can be a particular pitfall for aircraft design, as few companies are capable of providing specialist aircraft-certified art framing and fixings. As a result, a high-end aesthetic finish can sometimes be compromised. As well as art consultancy, Artelier provides a bespoke framing and installation service, bringing luxury finishes to the aviation world.

Using cutting-edge 3D printing technology, any conventional frame profile can be recreated from an extensive collection in aviation-grade materials. Lightweight and completed with an aviation-approved lacquer, the frames fully comply with regulations without compromising on a refined finish. Specialist coatings can then be applied to the frames to make them resemble high-end wooden frames, giving an appearance such as antique gold, pewter or bronze. The coatings can be tailored in order to complement the aircraft interior design scheme.

Other elements of artwork presentation should also be considered. Since glass presents a shatter hazard, aviation-approved Lexan can be used for the frame instead. This material is similarly transparent, but is shatter resistant and fireproof. Likewise, specialist fixings are needed to lock the pictures safely onto cabin walls, while also being concealed discreetly.

A client can also request that their own artworks are re-presented in a way that is suitable for aircraft. For instance, on a recent Falcon 7X project, a client wanted a series of treasured paintings to be displayed in the cabin; however, the painting canvases were too deep for the aircraft interior. It was possible, however, to re-stretch these artworks onto an aluminium board which was 2mm thick, making the artwork substantially slimmer and therefore safe to incorporate onboard.

Having worked on ambitious aviation projects, Artelier is experienced in adapting artworks to suit this unique environment.

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