Posts Tagged ‘cruise’


Photo: Cruise Critic
A Park West art auction in the Star Lounge on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas.

My family went on a cruise only once (1990, New York to Bermuda), so in terms of special features, we know about Broadway-type entertainments, and that’s it. “Let’s give a warm welcome to the Royal Viking singers and dancers, Everyone!”

But cruise lines keep trying to outdo each other in offerings. One couple I know chooses their trip based on what chamber music group will be playing. And if you are into fine art or auctions, there’s a cruise for you, too.

Of course, you’re not going to pick up something valuable for cheap.

Sarah Cascone writes at Artnet, “I was lounging poolside, cocktail in hand, when I heard the announcement. The grand finale art auction was about to start.

“It was a weekend cruise from Miami to the Bahamas aboard Royal Caribbean’s recently refurbished Navigator of the Seas. … As I entered the event, hosted by cruise-ship auctioneer Park West Gallery, I bypassed the registration table, heading straight for the auction floor, where a waiter was handing out glasses of sparkling white wine.

“From the start, it was clear that this was no regular art auction. After a brief spiel encouraging folks to buy art as a legacy to leave to their children, the auctioneer, Robert Borotescu, got down to business.

‘I don’t know if you’ve seen Oprah,’ he said. ‘We have some surprises under the chairs.’

“Cue a frenzy as the few guests in the room rushed to upturn every seat cushion. There were no car keys to be found, but there were $100 certificates for discounts on winning bids.

“Borotescu, a dark-haired Romanian man in his mid-to-late 30s, endeared himself toward the crowd by offering additional raffle tickets for $100 credits throughout the auction. … With his pleasantly urbane accent, Borotescu set his audience at ease, acknowledging that they probably never had the time to visit art museums and galleries. But they were here now, and it was his job to make sure that they went home with something they absolutely loved. …

“Borotescu told us that [Park West] operates on 100 cruise ships, and claimed that the art aboard the Navigator of the Seas alone was worth $3 million. Representing some 200 artists, the company holds 1,200 auctions every month. …

“Unlike most art world organizations, Park West seems to hire employees with largely non-art backgrounds. Borotescu’s LinkedIn lists six years in fine jewelry and watch sales at Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy before joining the company. A quick perusal of resumes of other auctioneers and art directors at the company yields unconventional experience in HVAC, used car sales, fitness instruction, and Royal Caribbean’s beverage team, to list just a few. …

“Park West specializes in what it calls ‘graphic works’: Mass-produced reproductions of original paintings, signed by the artist and released in limited editions. Some are giclée prints — a fancy term for high-quality inkjet prints. Other pieces might look like paintings, but these more expensive offerings are often merely hand-embellished, with brushstrokes layered over a printed image to give it a more ‘authentic’ feel. …

“ [The auctioneer] said: ‘If we look at the Oxford Dictionary of Art, every single artwork that can be traced back to the artist, or was created under the artist’s supervision, is considered to be an original work of art.’ …

“Most of the time, you won’t even take home the exact work you’re bidding on. Park West will ship you a functionally identical copy from its warehouse, rather than going through the trouble of turning over the on-board stock, according to Bloomberg Business. …

“The bidding kicked off with a piece by Peter Max, a well-known Pop artist who met Scaglione, Park West’s founder, back in the late 1960s, and has been represented by him ever since. …

“ ‘This is one of the gems we have on the Navigator of the Seas,’ Borotescu told the crowd, claiming that the ‘printed painting on canvas’ was valued at $23,500, but that he could start the bidding at $20,000. Less than 30 seconds later, the work was sold for $20,700.

“Max has decades of experience exhibiting at international museums. The highest auction record for a work of his is $53,125, according to the artnet Price Database. … Other artists on offer had decidedly less impressive CVs. Borotescu proudly proclaimed that Park West is the only gallery to represent David ‘Lebo’ Le Batard, noting that the artist is known for his paintings of cats and owls. …

“Every attendee was encouraged to enter a free raffle to take home a massive, unframed Thomas Kinkade [your blogger comments, ‘Ugh!’]. … One gimmick in particular stood out: A pair of works presented turned away from the audience, and sold as one lot, without any idea of what they looked like. ‘They are going to be two of the most gorgeous works of art that anyone has ever seen,’ Borotescu promised the audience. ‘Once you turn it around, if it’s something you don’t like, you don’t have to keep it.’ …

“And then there was Tweety.

“Borotescu never named the artist responsible for designing the tiny print, relying on the Looney Toons character’s name recognition … Supposedly, the artwork, which was just a couple inches high and therefore impossible to see from across the room, was valued at $549.

“ ‘Let’s have some fun,’ Borotescu suggested, asking everyone in the room to hold up their bid card. He opened the bidding at just $20. Two thirds of the crowd dropped out when he raised the price to $40, and suddenly the auctioneer slammed down the hammer, selling the cartoon bird to a handful of guests.”

More here, where you can also read about the latest confusion surrounding works by Peter Max, one of the featured artists.

I think if you didn’t take it too seriously, an onboard art auction would be fun. Gimmicks such as surprises under the chairs somehow make me think of a kid’s birthday party. The whole experience seems to play to the child worldview that is buried but available for anyone to tap in adulthood.

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