The Creation of the Queen Mary 2 Seashell Sculptures

• public art collection of Queen Mary 2, Cunard Lines

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada marble representational sea shells nautilus whelk queen mary 2 cunard lines

In 2002, Michael Binkley won an international competition to design and produce three sea shell sculptures for the Canyon Ranch SpaClub aboard the Queen Mary 2, Cunard Line. He worked with Onderneming & Kunst, an art consulting firm from the Netherlands in collaboration with Cunard. The logistics of producing stone sculptures for a location halfway around the world was challenging. Binkley never saw the ship during construction and all dealings were conducted electronically. Conceptual drawings (left) from the artist and schematic renderings from Onderneming & Kunst were scanned and emailed back and forth until final compositions and specifications were agreed upon.

Binkley selected statuario marble which was quarried in the mountains above the famous town of Cararra, Italy and is one of the finest quality marble for sculpture in the world. Michelangelo insisted upon using only Cararra marble for his sculptures.

Two large blocks of marble were available for purchase at a Vancouver stone dealer. Binkley bought these and had them cut into three blanks for the shells sculptures. It was important to have level bottoms on each blank, so the artist enlisted the services of a 6 foot diameter diamond saw to ensure a level bottom on each.

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada queen mary 2 oceanliner cunard lines

Binkley had the three blanks transported from the saw yard to his studio. He stands with the Whelk Shell blank (left) and used a water cooled diamond bladed angel grinder to cut frets to get the rough shape (right). He used a chain hoist to move the sculptures, shown here.

 

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada queen mary 2 oceanliner cunard lines

He repeated the method for the twin Nautilus Shells. Binkley left a portion on the top of each Nautilus Shell so that he could turn them upside down and they would be secure for him to hollow out the interiors of each sculpture.

 

michael binkley sculptor sculpture original fine art gallery vancouver canada queen mary 2 oceanliner cunard lines

Binkley completed carving the sculptures in July of 2003 and is shown in his studio with the finished sculptures. They were crated and shipped to France for installation aboard Queen Mary 2. The project took two years from conception to completion, and the sculptures were unveiled with the christening of the ship by HRH Queen Elizabeth II on January 8, 2004. The Queen Mary 2 began her Maiden Voyage on January 12, 2004, to much international fanfare.

Michael Binkley