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Art Explorer: Frédéric Jousset the man who brings art to the sea

Riva dei Sette Martiri, the monumental shore of Venice, a few minutes walk from Piazza San Marco. It is here that the first and largest traveling catamaran-museum in the world was moored during the 60th Biennale Arte. On board Arte Explorer, this is the name of the 47 meter long and 18 meter wide cat, Frédéric Jousset, the man who imagined and wanted it, tells how the idea came to him during a cruise in the Mediterranean. “I remember that we were off the coast of Lipari, north of Sicily. A starry night. I love boats and I adore the world of art. I asked myself: is there a way to combine the two things?”.

Art Explorer
Art Explorer, the 47 meter catamaran-museum by Frédéric Jousset (in the opening photo © Giovanni Malgarini /Top Yacht Design aboard Art Explorer) moored at the Riva dei Sette Martiri in Venice during the 60th Biennale Arte.

Art Explorer and Frederic Jousset

French, just turned 54, Frédéric Jousset, studied at the Ėcole des Hautes Ėtude Commerciales in Paris, a brilliant career as a manager then, in 2000, with his colleague Olivier Duha, he created Webhelp, which he defines as “The first search engine assisted by man“. This company specializing in the outsourcing of consultancy is experiencing dizzying growth and in 2020 the two founders decided to sell Webhelp to Concentrix, another IT services operator, for 4.8 billion dollars. Jousset remains in the new company and dedicates himself even more to his passion for art. An ancient passion that in 2005 led him to make a donation of one million euros to the Louvre Museum. A gesture that had surprised the management of the most important museum in France coming from a manager in his early thirties. “I started by financing hors de murs, outside the walls programs, dedicated to people who physically could not go to the Museum, because they were sick, because they were in hospital or in prison. In some way a continuation of Webhelp’s activity.

Art Explorer
Frédéric Jousset aboard Art Explorer. Photo © Giovanni Malgarini /Top Yacht Design.

To bring art and culture to as many people as possible

My goal is to bring art and culture to as many people as possible” explains Jousset who in 2019 with this objective created the Art Explora foundation which kicks off a series of initiatives: from the Art Explora Academy, an online platform in collaboration with the Sorbonne University, at Mumo, a truck loaded with works of art that travels around France, at initiatives aimed at children with disabilities admitted to hospitals, at those for residents of elderly homes.

Art Explorer
Hangar Y in Meudon (Paris) transformed into a cultural center by Art Explora. Photo © HL_ERICHARD.

And again to the recovery of Hangar Y, a hangar for airships built in 1878 on the outskirts of Paris which was transformed into a cultural centre, to the two residences for artists in Paris and Tirana. But not only because over the years Jousset contributed to the acquisition of important works of art by French museums, he became editor of the Beaux Art magazine and for his philanthropy he was named “great patron”, then administrator of the Louvre Museum and awarded the Legion of Honour. Finally, off the island of Lipari: “A real revelation”.

Art Explorer
Frédéric Jousset inside Hangar Y. Photo © davidatlanphoto.

Art Explorer, a boat-museum

When you look at the world map, you see that 60% of the world’s population lives close to the coast. Less than an hour’s drive away. If you look at Europe, many large cities are on the coasts. I said to myself: the sea attracts people, and if I go to port, I already come into contact with many people. The second thing that made me think is that people are fascinated by big boats. They make you dream. And I said to myself: can I bring art by sea on board a large boat? Thus was born the reflection underlying the Art Explora Festival and the Art Explorer boat-museum“.ì

Art Explorer
The presentation of the Art Explorer catamaran-museum project and the Art Explora Festival at the Dubai Expo 2020.

A boat” continues Jousset who, at the helm of a TF35, a foiling cat, won the Mirabaud Bol d’Or on Lake Geneva and who as a sailor also crossed the Atlantic on a 32 meter Ultim maxi-tri , as well as being a passionate mountaineer who even summited Everest and a gentleman driver in the Open GPs “which had to be large, stable, with a reduced draft and lots of space: a catamaran that could enter all ports. That it could welcome many people into its exhibition space. Thus, together with that of the museum boat, the idea of ​​exhibition spaces on land, on the dock, in front of the boat was born. The idea of ​​the Art Explora Festival with the boat-museum and the pavilions on land”.

Art Explorer
The TF35 Art Explora with Frédéric Jousset at the helm, winner of the Mirabaud Bol d’Or 2022. Photo © Loris von Siebenthal.

Art Explorer and Perini Navi

To realize his project Frédéric Jousset turns to the greatest yacht designers. “In the end we chose Axel de Beaufort and Guillaume Verdier. Axel de Beaufort, who is also an interior architect, is the one who had the most integrated and accomplished approach for a boat that was both a cruising yacht and a museum. A museum boat on which we wanted to carry 2000 people a day. Many big names had difficulty understanding this. Guillaume Verdier, on the other hand, designed very thin hulls and a very efficient and high-performance boat.”

The Art Explorer catamaran-museum immediately after being launched from the Perini Navi shipyard.

For the construction,” continues Jousset, “I wanted a construction site in Europe and the Mediterranean given that the first event would take place in the Mediterranean. I chose The Italian Sea Group and when they purchased Perini Navi I immediately accepted the proposal that the catamaran was the construction that would mark the rebirth of that shipyard. For me, Perini Navi is the best.”

The aft deck and the large deckhouse which becomes the exhibition space of the Art Explorer which Frédéric Jousset will also use as his private yacht. Photo © Benoit Linero.

The construction contract is signed in 2020. On September 6, 2023, Art Explorer goes to sea. “A little heavier than expected due to all the museum equipment we put on board but 15 tons out of 315 is not important. On board the volumes are crazy. The quality of the finishes is unparalleled. For me sublime. And when sailing it’s incredible.”

Art Explorer
The bow deck of Art Explora. Photo © Benoit Linero.

Arte Explorer began its first two-year tour with a stop in Malta and then moved to Venice for the 60th Biennale where the public was able to get to know artists such as Laure Prouvost who decorated the sails of Art Explorer, Michelangelo Pistoletto, with the his installation Love Difference – Mediterranean Sea, and that of Akram Zaatari, also dedicated to the Mediterranean, or live the sound experience created by the IRCAM center of the Center Pompidou in Paris. As well as participating in a series of concerts, performances and meetings with artists present at the Biennale Arte.

Art Explorer
The public in front of the giant screens inside the Art Explorer boat-museum. Photo © Benoit Linero.

After Malta and Venice, the next stop on the cultural journey of the Art Explora Festival with the Art Explorer cat-museum will be Marseille. From 6 to 18 June at the Vieux Port Frédéric Jousset will continue his project which for 2024 has as its last stop, in November, the Spanish port of Malaga.

Art Explorer
Frédéric Jousset in Venice aboard Art Explorer. Behind him the sails cre

I would be happy and proud” concludes Frédéric Jousset “if Art Explora and Art Explorer were recognized as a very effective tool for attracting hundreds of thousands of people to live a transformative cultural experience that pushes them to want to continue their education, to cultivate their desire to discover other places of culture, other museums, other works, other theatres. That, once Art Explorer has left a port, the people who have come on board continue in their desire to know and discover culture”.

Emilio Martinelli

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