An art auction was the last thing on our minds when my husband and I set sail on the Norwegian Jade to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. We agreed not to buy each other gifts. The trip itself was our gift to each other. On the introductory tour of the ship, one of the stops was the Park West Gallery.
True confession, we were lured by the free champagne. Next, the chance to guess the value of a Rembrandt, with the closest guesser taking home a free piece of art. Then, a piece of free art if we attended the auction. I find memories to be the best souvenirs of travel. Buying art? I don’t have an empty wall in my house. We have art we have inherited, and haven’t found a place to hang yet. Why would I buy more art? Give me a free piece of art? Well, perhaps I can find a place for it, or give it as a gift to someone who has empty walls.
It was our inherited art that drove us to attend the first auction on the ship. It seemed a great opportunity to learn more about what we have and what it is worth. Thanks to the knowledgeable staff at the Park West Gallery, we learned more about all of those things.
Never having attended an art auction, and having no experience except for an occasional movie or TV show scene of an auction, this was new. Upon arrival, we were given our bidding paddle that would allow us to participate. My husband whispered in my ear, “keep that thing down.”
The auction was held in the main dining room of the ship. A large collection was on display. We strolled through, admiring the works. Attendees were asked to mark anything that interested them, as there was more art available for auction than time to auction the art. As newbies, we did not mark anything. We had no intent of purchasing. We were there for the entertainment.
A brief talk on art, why people collect, and what makes art valuable kicked off the formal part of the event. Then, a short lesson on how the bidding process works. By the time the first piece was up for auction, we felt confident in the process, but still had no intentions of buying. Excited about what he had learned and experienced, we moved quickly onto lunch, and then our afternoon and evening in the port of Dubrovnik.
What are the practical reasons to buy at an art auction on a cruise? Art, like other purchases at sea, is duty free. The tax on high ticket items is significant. Collectors planning to make a major purchase can save several hundred dollars in tax by purchasing on the ship, perhaps equivalent to the cost of the cruise.
There is often less competition at an art auction on a ship than an auction on land. This means prices don’t get bid up as they might at a larger auction. The auctions are held during time at sea, which means you are not missing any of the ports of call in order to participate.
You don’t have to worry about packing your purchase in your suitcase. The art is framed and shipped from Park West Gallery’s Miami Lakes facility. As an American, we only paid US shipping. Shipping can be a bit higher for purchasers from countries other than the United States, but it is still possible to ship art anywhere in the world. For some travelers, this could be a rare opportunity to have access to fine art from living artists, a focus for the Park West Gallery.
I like the idea of buying art from living artists. There are so many stories about artists who died as paupers, before their art became popular and started commanding significant prices. Don’t these proprietors of creative expression deserve to make a living wage for their work? Thanks to the internet and the cruise lines, it is possible for collectors to find an artist and appreciate their talents while they are still living.
During the last art auction of our cruise, we decided to go watch one more time. We still had no intention of purchasing. Toward the end of the program, a collection of three pieces was put on display. First, the grouping was displayed facing away from the audience. The first piece was turned around. It was a Peter Max work. We have always had a special interest in Peter Max because my husband’s great aunt was Margaret Ingersoll, the fabrics editor at Vogue from 1950 to 1972. She knew Peter Max, had two posters he had signed, and always spoke fondly of him.
The second piece was revealed. It was a piece by Romero Britto, a Brazilian artist with a studio on South Beach. We had been to his studio on a trip to Miami. His work captured our attention because of the whimsical things he does with Hearts. Given that our name is Hart, we are always drawn to hearts.
The third piece to be revealed was a work by Yaacov Agam. An Israeli born artist, his work touched me because I had just been on a trip to Israel three months prior.
No one bid on this package. Then, the auctioneer took a break, and said the package would be available to the first person who came up to him and expressed interest before the end of the session. My husband turned to me and said, “I think we need this package.” I was surprised. This, from the guy who had whispered for me to keep my paddle down? The art was speaking to him. He said, “The Peter Max reminds me of my Aunt Margaret, the Romero Britto reminds me of our trip to South Beach, and the Agam represents your trip to Israel. I think this package is meant for us! “
Later that evening we were signing a contract, choosing frames and making arrangements for shipping. Three months later our artwork arrived. Because I had no empty walls, the installation of these pieces involved some rearranging, but all three pieces hang in the same room, and make us smile every day.
Why buy art on a cruise? Because travel expands the soul, and art fills it. Purchasing art for our home is a way to relive the memories of our travels even while we engage in the mundane tasks of everyday life. We have no regrets about our purchases, and have found a new interest in following the lives and work of the artists whose work we are enjoying.
Are we now collectors? Only time will tell.
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