After several years of controversy and lawsuits involving art auctions held on cruise ships, American shipping lines discontinued the practice. Now reports from Australia show that the business has migrated to the Antipodes and continues to cause controversy as vacationers are given overly optimistic advice on the value of their purchases. Nonetheless, one has to wonder why any buyer would take the seller’s assurances that the work will appreciate at face value:
Jason Hall was holidaying on P&O ship Pacific Dawn in January when a hand-embellished lithograph by American Alexandra Nechita caught his eye.
He said a representative from on-board art sales company British Australian Art told him the recommended retail price was $50,000. It was beyond his budget until the auctioneer announced he could sell it for as little as $12,500.
”The auctioneer said Nechita was the new Picasso,” said Mr Hall, from Sydney. ”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.”
He spent more than $20,000 on prints, including $14,465 on Nechita’s Riding The Waves. Back in Sydney, he approached art consultant David Hulme for a valuation and was told Nechita had almost no profile among art experts. Records on the database artprice.com showed that her prints had sold for far lower prices. The most expensive lithograph in the site’s records sold for $US1500.
Mr Hulme believes the cruise auctions take advantage of inexperienced buyers. ”They have a captive audience with no opportunity to get independent advice,” he said.
Cruise Liner’s Art Auctions Leave Investors All at Sea (Sydney Morning Herald)