Aquariva by Marc Newson

Aquariva by Marc Newson

“As a kid obsessed with designing and making things, post-war Italian design was a huge source of inspiration. I was amazed by the seamless ability of designers and industry to produce every conceivable type of industrial product, from furniture to automobiles. My own career has undoubtedly been influenced by the Italians’ impact on so many areas of design.”  —  Marc Newson

Marc has partnered with Riva and their official designers, Officina Italiana Design, to reinterpret the ‘Aquariva’ speedboat. ‘Aquariva by Marc Newson’ will be launched as a limited edition of 22 units in September 2010, available worldwide through Gagosian Gallery in New York .

The “Aquariva by Marc Newson” will still bear the beautiful lines that have made Riva runabouts so coveted since the 1950s. But she’ll bear Newson’s modern imprint, too.


Newson’s design for the Aquariva vessel is unique in its conception, as well as the materials chosen. A wood-like, textile-based laminate (phenolic composite) was used for the deck area and instrument panel. This material was developed in the first half of the 20th century, and was a precursor to fibreglass. While having an ostensibly organic feel and aesthetic, it is significantly more durable than wood.

To give the exterior a more high tech look, Newson utilized anodized aluminium, a material not generally associated with boats; this lightweight material is used in lieu of stainless steel and chrome brass, yet remains contextual among Riva’s glamour and classical design.


Respecting the DNA of the original project created by Officina Italiana Design was paramount to Newson’s design for Aquariva. With this in mind, some of the changes he makes are truly innovative: the re-imagining of the transom, the wrap-around, laminated glass windscreen, the split cabin door entry, the functionality of the lounge and dining area, and the re-introduction of separate driver and passenger seats.

Aquariva by Marc Newson’s simplicity and functionality are what make the boat truly extraordinary. The end product of Newson’s design is an uprated Riva complete with a bow thruster and state-of-the-art electronic transmission

Take a look at the transom. It’s recessed, a change from the gentle slope that other Riva models have borne. Instead of a benchseat at the helm, there will be separate seats for the captain and guests.

Only 22 boats will be part of the Aquariva by Marc Newson lineup, premiering in September. But you won’t see them at your local Ferretti Group dealer’s showroom: All will be offered exclusively through Gagosian Gallery, a leading contemporary art gallery. Gagosian Gallery has locations around the world, including New York, Athens, London, and Hong Kong.

Larry Gagosian, owner of Gagosian Gallery, is excited by this unusual opportunity, as is the chairman of Ferretti Group and Riva, Norberto Ferretti. In a statement, Ferretti says, “It is an honour for me to witness this partnership, one I am firmly convinced will both win great approbation and mark the history of design.”

Building on a legend

In 1842, Pietro Riva traveled from Laglio, on the banks of Lake Como, Italy to Sarnico, on Lake Iseo, to fix a series of storm damaged boats that everybody else had given up on. A daunting feat, but Pietro was up to the task.

Soon, he was attracting attention as a miracle worker. But with his talents, he didn’t want to just put boats back together – he wanted to build boats that nobody had ever seen before. Build them he did and Riva’s rich heritage was officially launched.

In the 1880’s Ernesto Riva, one of Pietro’s sons, took over the Riva yard.

While maintaining the tradition of impeccable quality and craftsmanship, he added another dimension to the Riva product: innovation. He began by fitting piston engines to his boats for the first time and built boats to carry passengers and cargo.

It was Serafino Riva’s turn at the helm next. Under his direction, he stopped producing passengers and cargo boats, launching Riva into the embryonic power racing boating scene. On the deck of his beloved racing boat, he was able, in 1912, to achieve a speed of 24 km per hour.

Serafino’s competitive ambitions drove Riva to a series of successes in national and international motor boating competitions between the first and second world wars.
Not content to remain solely in this role, Riva increased its line to include boats built for pleasure as well.
It was to be still, another turning point.

By the 1950s, the Riva name, under the leadership of Carlo Riva, became a worldwide symbol of quality, elegance, speed and status. With Riva’s uncompromising quality and superior materials, this renowned name became the only choice of kings and queens, emperors, princess and sultans, actors and sportsmen, matinee idols, the international jet set and business tycoons worldwide.

Famous names included Brigitte Bardot, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren, Prince Ranier, Aristotle Onassis, Peter Sellers and many others of equal stature. Today, celebrities, well-known businessmen, entrepreneurs, fashion stylists and the jet set are still unable to resist the magnetism of a Riva.

If you can afford the best, why not experience the best.

About Officina Italiana Design

Founded by Mauro Micheli and Sergio Beretta, Officina Italiana Design is the renowned boat design studio that for over 20 years has been officially appointed as Riva’s exclusive designers. Officina Italiana Design has given shape and perfection in every detail to the current Riva range, writing a piece of history of the international yachting design. Officina Italiana Design has won a number of international prizes and signed many important projects in the real estate and industrial design sectors, distinguishing from others by the aesthetic high impact of their works.

About Riva

Riva, the iconic Italian boat-maker established in 1842 in Sarnico, is one of the oldest and most celebrated boat-yard in the world.

In the 1950s, Carlo Riva created a celebrity persona for the brand based on the famous mahogany range of boats which became iconic.

Riva’s Aquariva is the natural evolution of the Aquarama, a modern day icon which reinforced Riva’s reputation as the epitome of style and luxury. Since 2000, Riva has been part of the Ferretti Group, one of the world leaders in the design, construction and sale of luxury yachts with a unique portfolio of some of the most exclusive, prestigious brands in the nautical world.

Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce “Transport,” a thematic exhibition by Marc Newson that brings together for the first time all of his major designs and realized products for transport and human locomotion since 1999.

“Transport” will premiere Aquariva by Marc Newson, Newson’s reinterpretation of the famous leisure speedboats produced by the iconic Italian boatmaker Riva. Drawing on the contemporary Aquariva and its predecessor of the 1960s, the glamorous Aquarama, Newson has infused the classic model with his streamlined and forward-looking style using ideas imported from his innovative work in automotive and aerospace design. These include the use of phenolic textile composite — a durable laminate made from linen and resin that made its first appearance in Newson’s furniture designs in 2007 — in place of traditional mahogany for the deck; anodized aluminum for discreet hooks, cleats, handles, and holds; a streamlined instrument panel, and a wrap-around laminated windscreen made from a single sheet of glass. The modified interior – upholstered in the collector’s choice of punchy colors including a vivid turquoise as an update of the original tone used for the Aquarama — includes separate driver and passenger seats, and a functional dining area. Aquariva by Marc Newson, custom-built in the original Riva boatyards, is produced in an edition of 22 and available exclusively through Gagosian Gallery.

Situating Aquariva by Marc Newson within the breadth and reach of Newson’s enduring obsession with human and mechanical locomotion, “Transport” explores the full range of his vehicle design. Some have been commissioned by leading international corporations specializing in automotive, aerospace, and nautical design, others designed for pure pleasure. From MN Special (2008), a lightweight carbon fiber bicycle designed for Biomega, to EADS Astrium Space-Plane prototype (2007) designed for commercial space tourism; from the mirror-like Nickel Surfboard (2006) designed for competitive tow-in surfing, to Kelvin40 (2003), a small, idiosyncratic jet plane named after the main character in Tarkovsky’s Solaris and commissioned by Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain; from the “convertible” Zvezdochka trainer for Nike (2004), designed for general use by Russian cosmonauts in the International Space Station and named after the fifth Russian dog in space, to the endearing Ford 021C urban concept car (1999), Newson’s imagination reveals a sense of playfulness and fun behind the requisite rigor of the modern design mind.

Newson approaches design as an experimental exercise in extreme structure and advanced technologies, combined with a highly tactile and exacting exploration of materials, processes, and skills. As an industrial designer, his reach is broad and diverse, from concept jets and cars to watches, footwear, jewelry, restaurants, and aircraft interiors. Since the outset of his career, he has also produced beautifully crafted, limited-edition furniture, including the iconic Lockheed Lounge (1986). In a world where the distinctions between art and design are becoming increasingly blurred Newson is a trailblazer, having pursued parallel activities in exclusive and mass production for more than twenty years.


The National  /  9th Sept, 2010 /  by Sandra Lane

Not for the first time, Marc Newson takes the risk of redesigning a legendary or iconic item.

New York’s heavy-hitting contemporary art collectors, together with the social-media-design crowd that buzzes around them, will descend upon the city’s West 21st Street for the opening of Transport, a thematic show of Marc Newson’s work. So far, so normal for the first night of any exhibition staged by the über-dealer Larry Gagosian.

Not so normal is the fact that the star of the show – and the only work in it for sale – will be a boat. Not just any old boat, though: the Aquariva was conceived as a successor to the legendary Riva Aquarama of the 1950s and 1960s, this one combines the pedigree of the Italian boat-builder with the talents of Newson, the Australian-born design starwhose work ranges from watches, bicycles and aircraft cabins to Nike shoes for cosmonauts, nickel surfboards and monobloc Carrara marble bookshelves (the latter having been launched at Gagosian at the end of 2007, to great acclaim).

Nevertheless, a boat in an art gallery? While this doesn’t mean that Gagosian is adding “yacht broker” to his CV, does it represent a greater blurring of the distinction between design and art that has been such a hot topic for the past decade? Not according to Newson.

Despite having been tagged as one of the leading proponents of so-called “design-art” (one example is his aluminium Lockheed Lounge chaise-longue that fetched US$1.5 million at Christie’s in 2007), he has often said that he considers the art-or-design question irrelevant because “the label is attached after the fact”, whereas the process involved in producing items is essentially the same.

Talking about the Aquariva, Newson is pure industrial designer, revelling in the fact that it’s a series boat – albeit a series limited to 22 pieces. “For me it’s more exciting to design a production vessel than a one-off – it’s more in sync with my day job; economies of scale are a big part of it.”

Yet that decidedly unromantic approach belies the romance of the project. “I was aware of Riva even as a child growing up in Australia – it epitomised the jet-set glamour of the 1960s, the Riviera, Portofino, the Aga Khan, Bardot… If you had asked me when I was 15 what is the most famous and beautiful boat in the world, I would have said withouthesitation, the Riva Aquarama.”

So would many other people; the Aquarama was instantly recognisable even among those who didn’t know about boats, such was its beauty and so strong was its image. But along the way something went wrong; Riva lost its gloss and was never quite able to replicate the success of its greatest hit.

For Newson, the opportunity to reinvent the icon “seemed like a no-brainer. In a sense [the Aquarama] was a perfect product, but no way could it have worked in a contemporary setup – it just wasn’t good enough for today.” Riva had tried to address that by launching the original Aquariva in 2000; it was a slightly tepid affair – and has achieved somewhat tepid success compared with its illustrious predecessor. “They didn’t do it the way I would have,” says Newson. “Mine is a different answer to the problem.”

His answer looks anything but lukewarm: from 100 paces it’s instantly recognisable as a Riva – but in ways you can’t quite define. There’s the distinctive silhouette, but it isn’t a slavish Aquarama copy; there’s a hint of nostalgia yet it looks utterly modern. The hull is unchanged from the original Aquariva (“we didn’t change things that would have affected its performance and handling”) but the transom [the back of the boat] is completely new.

“I had to identify one part of the boat that I wanted to have as its signature. If you ask old Riva aficionados ‘which part of the boat says the most to you?’ it would be the transom, so it was a slightly dangerous element to take on – akin to a plastic surgeon changing the eyes or nose of a famous beauty.”

But Newson is used to the risk of messing about with legends, for instance giving Dom Pérignon’s iconography a makeover and breathing new life into Jaeger LeCoultre’s famous Atmos clock. “Coming from the outside you can see things in a different context.”

Newson’s love of doing things differently is well known, so selling the boat through an art gallery is perhaps not so strange after all.

“I love the idea of putting things in different contexts,” says Newson. “The obvious thing to do would be a boat show. We’ll be doing that anyway but we wouldn’t do ourselves any favours just to do that. Since I have a longstanding relationship with the gallery, why not present the boat to wealthy art collectors?”

Why not, indeed. According to Mil licent Wilner, the director of Gagosian Gallery London, there has already been “a lot of interest from all over the world – from our regular Gagosian collectors, from collectors of Marc’s work, from boat enthusiasts and from some completely new people”. But all of them will have to line up behind the first person to have plunked down the $1.5 million asking price: a certain Mr Larry Gagosian.


Marc Newson was born in Sydney, Australia in 1963 and studied sculpture and jewelry design at Sydney College of the Arts.

Parallel to his career as an industrial designer, he has exhibited limited edition works and projects in galleries and public institutions since 1986, including Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris (1995, 2004); Powerhouse Museum, Sydney (2001); the Groninger Museum, Netherlands (2004); and London Design Museum (2004-2005). Newson had his first major exhibition with Gagosian New York in 2007, followed by a second exhibition in Gagosian London the following year.

He is a Royal Designer for Industry in the UK and currently Creative Director of Qantas Airways.

Earlier this year he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney.

An extensive monograph on his work is forthcoming from Taschen.

Newson lives and works in London

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