This is a video of Park West selling a Dali at auction. A signed print for $12,700. On the Internet one can find similar prints from the same period in Dali's life for sale in hundrds of dollars. Even best asking prices on line for similar pieces top out at $6000,from what we have seen.
I am not art expert, so I can only relate what I have read online about Park West and the way they sell art on ships. There has been a lot of interesting dialogue going on the Internet about the authenticity of the Dali prints Park West is selling. We are actually thinking about an a article to document what is happening.
I would like to get your opinions on Cruise Ship Art Auctions, especially for these high-end pieces. What is your gut feeling about what you see?
I wouldn't touch that stuff with a ten foot pole and rubber gloves.
2005 Panama Canal
2006 W. Caribbean
2007 E. Caribbean
2007 N. Atlantic
2008 S. America
2009 Grand Voyage
2010 N. Atlantic
2011 Grand Voyage
2013 Hawaii - S. Pacific
Boring. Expensive. I don't think I would ever purchase the artwork on board, anyhow. There was a Beatle print I saw once that I was fond of until I learned it would be many thousands of dollars. Yikes.
Over the course of years, we have purchased several pieces of art. Never once did we buy it for investments, and what we bought over the years was not high priced,by any means. As mentioned before, the only problem we had, which, was a major deal, to me and others involved, it came out well in the end.
The art is on my walls, enjoyed by us, now for years, and brings back memories of our wonderful cruise experiences.
I have been at auctions, and watched when people purchased, Erte, Rembrant, and others for major money, and thought, that I would not do....not at sea, anyway.....
Trip, with her book & tea!
Chat Hostess & Board Moderator
We're like Trip. We've bought a couple little things that caught our eye in the $100 - $200 range, and once I bought a WB animation cel that the guy obviously wanted to get rid of, because that's the one area of art that I really collect and know something about, so at about $300 I knew I was getting a real bargain. The cel was unattractive at the time because it was in a crummy, banged-up frame, which I deposited in the trash can on the ship. I had the cel reframed and it appraises at far, far more than I paid for it.
But that's the exception. As the New York Times points out, buying serious stuff for serious money at sea is a big gamble because you can't do any research. So it becomes the ultimate impulse purchase. If the seller is shady, it's a prime opportunity for a serious con.
Parenthetically, I wonder whether most people who buy big name artists for huge money actually love the art or just love the bragging rights. To the extent it's the latter and they get burned, it probably serves them right.
We have also purchased art from ParkWest both on ships and on land, as well as from Princess (the only major cruise line that doesn't use ParkWest). So far, we've been reasonably happy. We have enjoyed the education we get from the auctioneers.
I did wonder about one of our latest pieces - an animation cell collection of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs. I could have sworn the piece on the ship was "of 250", but ours is "of 2500". I have no idea if I can prove anything either way.
In any case, it helps to know of the author, and research on the net any pieces you may be thinking of buying. If it's a major purchase, hold off to the last auction and you may get a better deal.
I purchased a piece of artwork - really neat looking and I thought I understood everything - well, I didn't and ending up paying far more than what I thought I was suppose to pay - I learned my lesson - I'll never purchase again - Oh, I'll go to the auction for the free champagne, etc but not to buy.
When I buy art work it's movie posters and they are sign because I work in the film industry for 30 years and I bought them at silent auctions at private schools where my kids attend and I know the actors who sign them. I also collect them get them for free and over the years the actors sign them for me. My wife works at a radio station and she get them for free and sometimes they are sign. THEY DON'T COST ME THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.
Let be clear - there is nothing wrong with buying something you love for a few hundred dollars, and nothing wrong with legitimate collecting if you know what you are doing.
The problem is people representing something they are selling for $10,000 to $25,000 as being highly collectable and a "good buy" at that price when in fact it is way overpriced and possibly not even what they say it is.
If you haven't read the article you may not realizethis is happening, but I have been shocked myself lately at the art auctions I have been attending to learn that it happens almost every week.
It seems to me these things have changed over the years. What used to be a show where people dabbled for a little money for nicely framed and colorful wall decorations is now a high stakes whirlwind of "high finance" investment advice based on something no one without knowledge should invest in.
Would you buy a diamon in a foreign country for $10,000 based solely on the advice of the jeweler? or would you want to see a GIA certificate? I would never buy a diamond without a certificate. Well, these paintings for $20,000 have not been coming with independent 3rd-party appraisals, they were appraised by the people running the auction. That would never happen on land.
Your article Paul is outstanding and most informative.
I get the feeling that when they originally started out, the auction companies may have been maybe a bit more reasonable but quickly realized that they were sitting atop a veritable gold mine.
In any event, while on our recent cruise on the Explorer of the Seas, I really got to thinking after looking into the process while aboard and at some of the pieces being displayed and correlating all of that with what I've been reading on the net of late, about the subject.
Common sense has to tell you a couple of things. First of all, if this "art" is anywhere near as "high end" as claimed, why is it being auctioned on mainly the mass market lines instead of being proferred to the very well heeled (and usually very well educated) on the most expensive premium lines? Why do all of these sales take place in the middle of the oceans of the world? Who has ever heard of a legitimate auction wherein the piece on which you are bidding is not the actual piece you will own should you win the bid? Who would ever bid at an auction that admittedly allows "shill" bids?
It truly amazes me when it comes to the numbers of people who have actually paid many thousands of dollars for this stuff without knowing anything about what they were buying and taking the auctioneer's statements as whole cloth.
It all reminds me of those street side offerings in resort areas where, "We'll give you each a roll of quarters just for sitting through a 'presentation' about our fantastic time share deals." At least those have local, state and federal laws governing them.
I think it about time the cruise lines divest themselves of this travesty, regardless of how much money they make, especially in view of the increasing number of disgruntled passengers who purchased the stuff. If the current allegations are substantive (and I personally believe in large part that they are), this has the possibility of exploding into a scandal no one expected or wanted, most especially the cruise industry. The old adage that "if something looks too good to be true, it probably is" holds just as true for an entire industry as it does for the individual consumer.
I just listened to the Royal Caribbean conference call, they say that for Park West "their revenue stream has been an area of weakness compared to other onboard products." which they have discussed with Park West in the past, although not in the last week since the NY Times article came out.
They also say "we expect the highest standards of credibility for the business they are in" and "we will be focusing quite a bit if attention on them to assure they are both operating properly and producing properly."
It sounds to me as if Park West has not been getting away with as much "fleecing" of unsuspecting cruisers as they would like to. And the cruise lines are unhappy with the returns they are bringing in.
I would also hope the cruise lines would realize that the reason for that is because the vast majority of cruisers are on to these scoundrals, and we really do not care to have art auctions on ships anymore. The first cruise line that announces they are doing away with art auctions, especially in the style of Park West, would gain a lot of credibility in the public eye.
What a P.R. coup it would be for a cruise line to say "we are ending art auctions onboard because we heard from our guests that they are disruptive and they lend an air of cheapness and carnival-barker-like hucksterism to the cruise atmosphere."
Surely the cruise lines must realize there is a reason why art auctions are not big money makers, and the reason is intelligent cruisers consider them a joke. Plus, they are a menace to the unsuspecting cruisers who get taken and that just gives the cruise industry a black eye.
What is possibly new here? It was over 11 or 12 years ago that I was royally goosed on a Princess Ship. When I returned home, I found that the same great work of art was on the web for approximately 20% less than I had paid prior to the surcharges. I then stopped in a small art store at the corner center and found the artwork on the wall for even less and the owner wanted to negotiate. I called Princess and screamed. After many letters with no help from the art company, Princess stepped in and cancelled the order. They also gave me future consideratins for all the trouble.
So I walked on my next cruise on Princess and the auctioneer "Stu the former NBA player" was now working directly for Princess and giving the same goose with a new Princess art firm.
High prices in a Steiner Spa I can stomach...but the baloney and the fraud at the art auctions is old news and the cruiselines take the profits and smile. Perhaps they should just add a royal goose surcharge and stop the "hidden" fraud.
I'm sure you're article is correct in that there is wide variation in auctioneers' practices. I have been on more than a dozen cruises and have purchased many pieces from Park West. The charges for appraisals and shipping were explained clearly at each auction, and they weren't as high as you quoted. I attended (probably at least 5-6 different auctioneers all for Park West). Sometimes they don't explain what you're bidding on, if I'm interested I always find out what it is (litho, giclee, original or original one of a kind painting). So, yah it's not smart to buy what you don't know. I've always been extremely skeptical of their Dali's because of the high possibility of a fake. I bought what I liked and it hangs in my home, many pieces were matted and framed and I bought them for less than matting and framing would cost. Although the auctioneers try to convince you that art will appreciate, it's a speculative thing and you can't do that unless you've done your research. I agree that having to apply for their credit card to bid is a bit shady, but honestly anyone who spends money because they drank a lot of yucky free champagne or because they had been given a line of credit needs to grow up. I have never seen the works by the artists that I purchased for less in a gallery or online, quite the contrary, they are usually worth double. I wouldn't count on that price if I were reselling though. A little common sense goes a long way. I think your article is unfair to Park West; however, the caution to cruisers unfamiliar with auctions at se is valuable.
Bowwow... you are right some of this has been going on a long time now, but they are finally getting the scrutiny they deserve.
My article is only repeating what others are saying about Park West, I am not making any accusations myself. In fact, I think I defend them more than other articles I have read, especially the sources I quoted. At least I try to give plausible explanations for some of the accusations. There is a lot I did not write as well.
I am happy to hear that you did get some good buys at these auctions. That is how they should be, a good value. You didn't say when you got these good deals, but I personally wouldn't mind these auctions if I thought they were mostly selling value. Unfortunately, I have personally noticed an intensified concentration lately at these auctions away from nicely framed prints to ultra-expensive "collectable" unique works of art.
The problem is that when it is the auctioneer and owner of the gallery telling you how valuable it is, rather than an independent appraiser or catalog, then that appears to be a conflict of interest. Especially when people get home and find differently from what they were told.
I will say, as MrBowwow says, and the article points out, that Park West and Princess have both made refunds to buyers in cases where they feel they were misled by the auctioneer.
These auctioneers are apparently independent contractors who have to sell a minimum every cruise or "pay rent" to the cruise line. They have been under pressure to perform more & more.
Even the last Royal Caribbean earnings conference call said they found the art auctions "underperform" other onboard revenue streams. Take that, customer dissatisfaction, refunds, and negative press and I would think the cruise lines would be thinking twice about whether the auctions are worth it.
I think it started as a cute idea, even "cultural" and there was not so much focus on making money, but it has gotten out of control. As I found when researching the article, the art world is FULL of controversy and that alone makes it a very risky investment, even for people who know what they are doing.
And that was the only point I was trying to make in my article.
"Stu the former NBA player" auctioneer, to my mind was quite unprofessional in dealing with some purchasers onboard. He made a comment to me, about another in our group, and, I wanted to smack him. Of all the auctioneers he was my least fave..
On the other hand yrs ago, on the old Seaward, we had an auctioneer, that gave us fabulous art history lessons, and was a joy to listen to, and deal with.
That was our best, and since then, we noticed how the auctions have changed.....
Trip, with her book & tea!
Chat Hostess & Board Moderator
Most of the art auctioneers are master "slick" salesman...I am proud to have been a "professional" salesman so I don't mean that derogatory...however, they are the type of commission salesman who used to sell "health tonics" at the traveling side shows in front of the booth with the bearded lady.
On the other hand, I really enjoy when the masseur on the ship finishes the massage with a super sales pitch to sell a load of "health care" products. For this I have an easy answer: I love to buy everything you want to sell to me; however, my wife enjoys returning everything I buy.
The problem with high pressure art selling with the auctioneer trying to appear as an independent art expert with shills in the audience, it is slime when you are paying for a vacation not a gouging.
I have quite a bit of knowledge regarding the auction industry, having been a full time auctioneer for over 25 years and having conducted over 3,000 auctions in 14 states. I also am an avid cruiser and have sailed on 30 plus cruises.
I have attended several art auctions conducted by Park West and have not seen the infractions stated in this article or the New York Times article. My most recent cruise aboard Celebrity Millenium I attended the art auction several times. I was not required to fill out a credit application before receiving a bidder number and the auctioneer did read the rules very clearly before the auction began. The auctioneer did give the Park West miminum opening bid that was required to start the bid and this is standard procedure in the industry while conducting an auction with reserve. The rules are simple, if you want to start the bid at the reserve, then you do so, if not you don't. If no one starts the bid at the reserve the item is passed over for the next item. As far as a buyers premium goes, almost every auction in the USA charges a buyers premium and this has been standard in the industry for almost 20 years.
I am not familiar with many of the art terms used for copies, but I thought the art being sold was represented truthfully. I am not trying to defend Park West but when you do as much business as they do, there are always going to be cases of buyers remorse and yes some people get carried away and over pay. It has happened in every one of my 3,000 plus auctions.
By the way, I did not see one single shill bid or bidder in the auctions I attended and believe me I can spot them a mile away. I did see people that agreed to start the bid and almost every time no one bid against them and they won the bid. This too is standard procedure in the auction industry. In my opinion, Park West is providing an interesting service and people can choose to participate or not. I really do enjoy watching the art auctions on board and find them relaxing and interesting. [/b]
Thanks Paul, I have been retired for the last 3 years from being an auctioneer and thought it would be interesting and perhaps rewarding to go to work on cruise ships. I have not contacted anyone as of yet and know about Park West and also understand there is another art gallery doing cruise ship auctions. I also am aware that Princess has there own in house art auctions. I am still in the considering stage and have not made any decisions about going back to work.
I went to the site you referred me to and it did not have any information regarding auctions at sea, it was geared towards entertainment. Is this the agency that Princess uses to hire art auction staff?
I am still uncomfortable with the unfavorable articles regarding Park West. It is unfortunate, but when you do as much sales volume as they do, you are not going to make everyone happy. In addition to being a retired auctioneer, I also have owned a number of businesses including 6 retail stores. I know all to well that anytime you deal with the public, you cannot make everyone happy. I think if you consider the number of sales and customers that Park West deals with and look at the number of complaints you will see that there are an overwhelming number of happy and satisfied customers. It is only the few unhappy customers that make all the noise.
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As far as your other comments - yes it is true you can never satisfy all the people all the time. My article is about the controversy surrounding Park West, which is well documented on other web sites. I say in my article that nothing has been proven about the company nor have they been charged. There are two class action lawsuits against them in process - a previous one was dropped.
My main point is that the world of art collecting is fraught with controversy. Look at the Dali situation. In 1990 there were so many Dali fakes on the market that the value for all Dali prints became questionable. Those fakes are still out there, but no one knows where. It is estimated the number of fakes to real prints is 10 to 1. Knowing that, would you recommend a novice buy a Dali print at sea for $12,000? When they have no way to authenticate it or get an unbiased second opinion? I can't get behind that.
For a professional like you, maybe. But many other professionals have disagreed with what you say about PW processes. That is controversy, not proof, but controversy alone is enough to affect the value of anything as temporal as artwork.
I was in law enforcement and not in Fire but I'll tell you this. When there's this much smoke (and I myself have been reading about such issues from all angles for over a year and a half now), you can make a pretty sure bet that there's a fire somewhere.
Paul's video of the Auctioneer mumbling through the "rules" provides at least a crystal clear and under the circumstances, very damning glimpse, if nothing else.
Probably the one thing that would make me most apprehensive is that the bidder at these auctions often is not buying the actual piece in front of them. I'm certainly no expert on auctions but having attended quite a number of them, that right there threw me for a loop.
While I see nothing wrong with setting a minimum bid (that's fairly routine) the "shill bidding" process while maybe legal, for me personally at least, sends a whole lot of red flags up the 'ol yardarm. I personally know of no reputable auction house that would condone such practices, leastways not around these parts.