Edvard Munch's art collection to feature on board Viking Sun Cruise in French Polynesia-New Zealand

During five full days at sea, even aboard a luxurious cruise ship where every passing whim is for the satisfying, the uninitiated may reasonably expect that the odd captive moment could see you resembling shades of the figure in Edvard Munch's The Scream.

But, here, somewhere deep in the Pacific Ocean halfway between French Polynesia and New Zealand, during the lavish amounts of idle time aboard the 930-passenger Viking Sun, there's much to eliminate any momentary angst. The ship, after all, is a floating exposition of everything Nordic and nice, right down to the lashings of Danish-style open sandwiches and the elaborate Scandinavian spas and saunas.

But the Viking Sun is also a true cultural flagship. Outside of Oslo, the Norwegian capital, the ship's owner, Viking Cruises, in a serious nod to its Nordic heritage, owns the largest collection of Munch works. All of the 35 works adorn the walls of vessels such as the Viking Sun, one of six ultra-modern ocean-going ships in the Viking fleet. Viking's art collection, complementing the restrained, light-filled and blond-timbered Nordic-style ship interiors, also includes lauded paintings by Norway's 81-year-old Queen Sonja, once the subject of an Andy Warhol lithograph.

On my circuits around Viking Sun's salubrious decks, it is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the works of the expressionist Munch that most intrigue and inspire. I soon learn that Norway's most celebrated artist first took up the brush aged 12, dedicating the rest of what's been described as a nomadic, turbulent and bohemian life to art.

Impressive as it is, Viking's Munch collection pales compared with the painter's own output which saw him, over six decades until his death in 1944, create more than 2000 paintings and tens of thousands of prints.

Viking is not alone in its embrace of shipboard art. Across the globe, cruise liners have become floating galleries housing some of the world's finest and most coveted artworks, many of them by the masters, spread across all the vessels of the various fleets. Indeed, whole on-board galleries are now emerging to properly present the art.

Such works, what with the relatively high levels of security adopted by modern-day cruise lines, are probably safer aboard a sea-going passenger ship than they are inside a typical gallery. The Scream itself has been the target of several audacious thefts and theft attempts over the years at Oslo institutions.

Aside from the seven original Munch works hanging aboard Viking Sun, including the sensual, perhaps suitably named 1896 lithograph On the Waves of Love, Viking has secured digital rights to the entire collection of the artist's work via a partnership with Olso's venerable Munch Museum.

Each night on a giant screen in Viking Sun's central atrium, a thematic presentation entitled "Munch Moments" showcases a selection of the painter's works, including self-portraits and a cameo by The Scream. The presentation is accompanied in part by a musical recital which includes works by another notable Norwegian, the 19th-century composer Edvard Grieg.


A confronting swirling motif emblematic of the angst that can suddenly overwhelm the human condition – even in a part of the world known for its phlegmatic natives – The Scream actually consists of four versions painted between 1893 and 1910. It was perfectly described in a verse by Munch in his own diary, with the entry referring to a setting-sun "blood red" sky that left the artist "trembling with anxiety" resulting in "an infinite scream passing through nature".

Fortunately, after five indulgent days of my passage through the watery nature of the vast Pacific, I disembark in our first landfall since Bora Bora, the Bay of Islands near the northern tip of New Zealand's North Island, utterly angst free and fully enlightened about the life and work of the master Munch from a world away, Norway.


Anthony Dennis travelled as guest of Viking Cruises, Air Tahiti Nui Tahiti Tourisme.






Viking Cruises offers destination-focused cruises from eight days to Viking Sun's 245-day Ultimate World Cruise, departing in August. See vikingcruises.com.au


Air Tahiti Nui operates flies between Auckland and Papeete, with connections from Australia, five days a week. See airtahitinui.com