OceanGate Launches Artist Residency in the Hull of the Titanic

titanic 2 lead
A rendering of the Titan II ferrying artists to the Titanic shipwreck, where easels will be set up on the dilapidated deck for “maximum inspiration.” An artwork by Hirst is shown for scale. (edit Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

OceanGate, whose submersible Titan infamously imploded last June, announced that it is launching a new artist residency in the hull of the Titanic. Sponsored by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), which is perhaps best known for corporate kleptocracy in the 1980s and funding environmental racism today, the program will ferry artists to the shipwreck located 13,000 feet below sea level in a newly built vessel called Titan II

“Such deep-sea explorations are prohibitively expensive, so we chose to sponsor a class of young, emerging artists who could really use the experience,” a spokesperson for KKR told Hyperallergic. “This demonstrates KKR’s generosity and commitment to arts and culture.”

Henry R. Kravis, co-executive chairman of KKR, is allegedly also interested in partaking in an OceanGate journey to the Titanic, but said that he would “like to see how this little trip goes, first.”

The inaugural class of OceanGate Ocean-Depth Water Theory Fellows (OGODWTFs) consists of Damien Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Kaws, Matthew Barney, and Jeff Koons. (Every single one of the artists-in-residence has an estimated net worth of at least $20 million.)

An OceanGate representative said that the company has instituted new safety measures in advance of the fellows’ descent; notably, it has upgraded its steering mechanism from a 2005 XBOX 360 controller to one from 2014. 

During the residency, Hirst intends to suspend corpses of Titanic victims in formaldehyde, and then backdate those works to 1901. Kaws will make a limited-edition run of humanoid shark figurines covering their eyes. Koons is considering an inflatable shark. Barney, who makes works about masculinity, has apparently “taken a vow of silence” in preparation for an upcoming performance, according to the company, and could not be reached for comment.

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