In the spring of 2001, Binkley was invited to enter an international competition to realize three large sculptures for Cunard Line’s newest vessel, the Queen Mary 2, the most famous ocean liner of our time ©. A year later, he won the competition and began designing three sea shell sculptures which were to be installed in the ship’s spa, to be operated by the Canyon Ranch SpaClub.
There is a permanent, $5 million fine art collection aboard the Queen Mary 2 consisting of works by 128 artists from 64 different countries. Binkley is the only artist from Canada commissioned to produce original fine art for the ship's art collection. This was a significant commission in this artist's career, and Binkley's most famous to date. To be associated with the Queen Mary 2 and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub was an honour.
The three large seashell sculptures are located around the thalassotherapy pool of the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. The SpaClub, located forward on Deck Seven, is 20,000 square feet and the largest, most luxurious spa at sea.
Binkley worked in collaboration with Onderneming & Kunst, an art consulting firm from Amsterdam, The Netherlands and with representatives from Cunard Line Ltd. in Miami, FL, USA. The Queen Mary 2 was constructed at the Alstom Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyards in St. Nazaire, France.
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 from the artist and schematic renderings from Onderneming & Kunst were scanned and emailed back and forth until final compositions and specifications were agreed upon.
The shell sculptures consist of two, mirror image Nautilus Shells and one Whelk Shell. Since the sculptures were to sit beside a pool, no part of them could be in danger of holding or collecting water. They also had to be hollowed out, so lights hidden in the pedestals would give the sculptures a soft glow in the calming, dim light of the pool room. For this reason, Binkley chose the beautiful Carrara statuario marble for its translucent quality, and calming white colour with veining of light grey.
Binkley completed carving the sculptures in July of 2003 and they were crated and shipped to France for installation aboard the ship. The project took two years from conception to completion, and the sculptures were unveiled with the christening of the ship by HRM Queen Elizabeth II on January 8, 2004. The Queen Mary 2 began her Maiden Voyage on January 12, 2004, to much international fanfare.