Abandoned Steam Ship Transformed Into Giant Street Art Gallery

  • “Mauricamia” by Fin DAC

    The decks are empty and the turbines still and silent on this hulking steamer. For over three decades, the Duke of Lancaster sat on the banks of the River Dee in north Wales, slowly rusting away. To anyone who saw her, the ship was little more than another abandoned maritime relic, but that was before the DuDug project intervened – and artists turned what had become a giant eyesore into a colorful open-air art gallery.

  • Pirate by KIWIE

    Construction of the Duke of Lancaster was completed in 1956. Built in Belfast, she was one of the final steamers built for British Railways that was exclusively for passengers. The Duke of Lancaster also had a second purpose as a cruise ship, and in this capacity she took people as far as Spain and Norway.

  • Three murals on the Duke of Lancaster

    The steamer stopped functioning as a cruise ship in the mid ‘60s, when she was modified to carry cars as well as passengers on her Heysham-Belfast ferry route. But by 1975 this duty had ended as well. After a brief time spent on another crossing, the ship was brought to rest in Cumbria, northern England.

  • Artist GOIN is hard at work

    In 1979, Duke of Lancaster arrived at her current location, which is close to Mostyn in north Wales. Here, she was initially opened to the public as a “Fun Ship” that could be explored. There were even plans to turn the vessel into a hotel, but the idea didn’t come to fruition.

  • “The Prophets of Profit II” by Fatheat

    Finally, an international collective of street artists known as DuDug approached the owners of the Duke of Lancaster to find out if they could use the ship as a giant canvas. With the owners’ permission, they began a project known as the “Black Duke” in August 2012. Artists from around the world – including KIWIE, Fatheat (pictured above), Lora Zombie, Mr. Zero and the Cream Soda Crew – contributed to the ship’s bright new transformation.

  • Another look at one of KIWIE’s pirate characters

    The work began with a contribution by Latvian street artist KIWIE. To generate interest in the project, KIWIE made videos of himself painting the ship as though it were being done illegally, although later he released a true version of the events. The strangely cute pirate character seen here is one of two KIWIE created for the project.

  • “Eduk the Diver” by the Cream Soda Crew

    A diver in an old-fashioned diving suit holds a can of spray paint in this mural on the ship’s hull. The bold colors obscure the rust patches that riddle the vessel. This piece is titled “Eduk the Diver,” and it was created by local artists the Cream Soda Crew. The lettering says “The Boat That Shocks.”

  • “Council of Monkeys” by GOIN

    The “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkeys feature in this rather subversive mural, titled “Council of Monkeys.” French artist GOIN created the mural, intending it as a message to the local Flintshire council. Unlike the ship’s owners, the council was not supportive of the art project and tried to stop it.

  • “The Prophets of Profit I” by Mr. Zero

    This work, entitled “The Prophets of Profit,” is another clear jab at the council. A sinister figure rides on a giant pig, with the words “Greed,” “Power” and “Corruption” scrawled on its side. The pig’s hat less than subtly features the council’s logo.

  • Close encounter with Mr. Zero

    The council’s objections to the project included fears that the vessel was hard to get to and could become hazardous due to flooding. Both arguments have been refuted by DuDug.

  • “The Prophets of Profit I” by Mr. Zero

    Here’s a closer look at the piece. Mr. Zero, a Hungarian artist from the Street Art Crew, painted this grinning pig with the grotesque figure on its back. Fellow Hungarian and Street Art Crew member Fatheat painted the fourth picture featured in this article, which is titled “The Prophets of Profit II.”

  • “Mauricamia” by Fin DAC

    In this photograph, Irish artist Fin DAC does some stenciling on his geisha mural, “Mauricamia.” The mural, which decorates the ship’s stern, is one of the lovelier artworks on the Duke of Lancaster. Unlike some of the more bizarre creations, this one is simply beautiful. It’s a hidden gem, located in a secret spot only visible from the dock.

  • “Prophets of Profit II” detail by Fatheat

    The grinning skull in this image is a detail from Fatheat’s part of the “Prophets of Profit” artwork he created with Mr. Zero. A group of strange disconnected heads and skulls make up the mural. The message of both “Prophets of Profit” pieces is the same: corruption.

  • “The Face of Authority” by Bungle

    Moving back to the edgier pieces, this artwork, titled “The Face of Authority,” was painted by Bungle, a street artist based in Bristol in the UK. In the mural, a man removes a lifelike mask to reveal a balaclava-clad face underneath. The arresting piece of work is reportedly one of the most difficult that the artist has ever attempted.

  • Pirate by KIWIE

    Both of the quirky pirate characters created by KIWIE are visible in this shot taken from the front of the Duke of Lancaster. One is the blue creature we saw earlier, while the other seems to be suffering from severe allergies. Unsurprisingly, the Black Duke project has received a lot of international attention since it began, which may lead to the ship becoming a tourist attraction in its own light.

  • Pirate by KIWIE

    Here’s another look at the orange pirate created by KIWIE. On closer inspection, you can see the patterns and drawings within the figure and its rivers of green eye juice. Look carefully and you’ll notice a hand, diamonds, a skull and many more hidden details.

  • The beautiful Geisha artwork

    Black Duke project director Maurice Blunt has enormous ambitions for the old steam ship. He hopes that one day it will become the biggest open-air art gallery in Europe. “At first some were not keen on the artwork and saw it very doggedly as ‘illegal graffiti’ in the negative sense of the word,” says Blunt. “However, many now realize that The Duke has been given a new purpose and a new lease of life.”

    Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Yohani Kamarudin
Yohani Kamarudin
Scribol Staff
Art and Design