Here’s a thought: At home, you’re not an art collector or an art expert. You don’t wander around galleries randomly spending thousands of pounds or dollars on an artist you’ve never heard of. So why does this change the minute you board a cruise ship? Recently in Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald, we read the sad tale of a passenger on a P&O Cruises Australia cruise who bought a painting at an on-board art auction that turned out in a subsequent valuation to be worth a fraction of what he’d paid.
Jason Hall, the story says, was vacationing on Pacific Dawn in January when a hand-embellished lithograph by American artist Alexandra Nechita caught his eye. After a discussion with the auctioneer, Hall ended up blowing more than $20,000 on art, including almost $15,000 on the Nechita picture. Alas, a consultation with an art expert back home revealed that the value of the picture was more along the lines of $1,500.
Not surprisingly, Hall is planning to take his case further. “The auctioneer said Nechita was the new Picasso,” he told the newspaper. ”He said it was a great investment and the value would go up. . . . I didn’t question it. I thought P&O wouldn’t have anything dodgy on board.”
But surely the point isn’t whether the picture was “dodgy” or not but rather, who in their right mind would blow so much money on something they knew so little about? Even a two-minute Google search I conducted as a test didn’t show any Nechita works on sale for more than about $7,000.
Art auctions on cruise ships do often come in for bad press, and there have been cases of legal action against the auction companies for misrepresentation, to the extent that there’s a trend now for cruise lines to drop the whole concept. Windstar Cruises and Oceania Cruises no longer offer auctions, and Royal Caribbean has recently scrapped this form of entertainment.
But however good or bad the auctions, there’s a moral to this story: Do your research – regardless of where you are in the world.
Don’t get ripped off: Check out our warts-and-all guide to Art at Sea.
From getting kicked off a wedding cruise to being docked next to a blazing oil fire, read more tales of When Bad Things Happen to Good Cruisers.
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