We’ve reported on the unhappiness of cruise-goers who are unfortunate enough to stumble into sales conducted by Park West Galleries. Though there’s no excuse for buying art on the say-so of a dealer who tells you it is a great investment, the cruise ships should be ashamed of their willingness to embrace this confidence game. One family must have been intoxicated by the sea air because they spent $400,000 on a set of Dali prints. They regret it now. The Independent has the story:
What caught the attention of Mrs Day, a London lawyer and mother-of-three, were the art auctions held in the vessel’s public rooms by Park West Gallery, an American company which bills itself as the world’s biggest seller of art. It sells 300,000 paintings and prints each year, half of them on cruise ships (it holds sales on more than 80 vessels), and has annual revenues of $300m (£182m).
Among the items on offer to passengers entering Park West’s ocean liner auctions, where the sales patter of an expert auctioneer comes with complimentary champagne, are woodcuts by Rembrandt, Picasso lithographs and Salvador Dali prints.
Within a week, Mrs Day, 46, a long-standing art lover, and her husband Julian Howard, 48, a senior City lawyer, had spent nearly $98,000 (£60,000) and begun the $422,000 (£258,000) acquisition of a complete set of Dali’s Divine Comedy – six-volumes of prints originally commissioned by the Italian government in the 1950s to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth.
Park West’s auctioneer described it as a “masterpiece and a part of history”. What the couple did not know at the time was that their purchase would also be the departure point for a bitter transatlantic court case in which they, along with a number of other cruise-ship art buyers, claim in a legal summons they are victims of a carefully orchestrated fraud which has left them with pictures that are either valueless fakes, or genuine but commonly available works that are worth a fraction of their eye-watering sale price. […]
During the sales, Mr Howard, a lifelong fan of Dali, asked whether it was ever possible to buy a whole set of the Divine Comedy. He thought little more about his enquiry until the couple received a phone call after returning to London from Morris Shapiro, gallery director at Park West, who said he had managed to obtained an “exceedingly rare” example of the entire series. After much to-ing and fro-ing over 10 weeks in which Mr Shapiro went into detail about the provenance of the art, describing the date it was produced and the type of paper used, the couple agreed to pay a total of $422,601 for the collection of 100 prints in six books, complete with an appraisal valuing it at $510,000 and a certificate of authenticity.
The Surreal Case fo Dali’s Art and the Squandered Legacy (The Independent)