Cruise Ship Art Auctions FAR from Smooth Sailing

Recently, there have been a spate of articles about cruise line art auctions, including a story in the New York Times.

In April 2007, I posted this item: Class Action Swells Hit Cruise Line Art Auctions. More than a year later it gets regularly read from Internet searches and commented upon. In the ensuing months, the furor over art auctions on cruise ships has not abated. If anything, it appears to be growing. 

Since my post, Fine Art Registry™ , which bills itself as The World’s 1st Online Permanent Registry and Marketplace for Fine Art and Collectibles, has become embroiled with the largest company selling via auctions on the high seas, Michigan-based Park West Gallery. Admittedly, I don’t have firsthand experience with FAR, but so far as I can tell, it appears to be doing a credible job of trying to effect real positive change in this sticky area of authenticity and provenance. Over the years, there have been other companies with a similar mission, but none have created a sustainable business. 

A problem for FAR and companies like it has been trying to amass enough artists and collectors as users in order to create a critical mass where not participating is not an option. Given the wide open independent nature of the art business where both artists and collectors seek pay less to create, market and collect art, respectively, it is a tough chore. FAR seems positioned to stick around and make a go of it. Its tenacity and willingness to go toe-to-toe with Park West Gallery is indicative of the commitment from its owners to the art business and its business model in particular.

Certainly, the public outcry over the tactics of cruise line auctioneers has to help FAR’s cause in bringing more artists and collectors into its fold. Because there is a void in the market and legal system for cruise ship auction art buyers to find redress, FAR has found itself as a repository of pleas for help. It dutifully took up the cause and began to do its own investigation and report its results. Park West Gallery, its litigious chief nemesis, bore the brunt of those reports. And, not surprisingly it launched a lawsuit against FAR claiming slander. A countersuit has been filed as both sides seem to have dug in for the battle.

As a result of many Fine Art Registry™ members contacting it for help and information on the persistent problems that affect art industry, it dedicated a portion of its Web site to what it calls Fine Art Advocacy.  The mission for it is to report on all interesting advocacy issues and includes a forum where participants can share their experiences.

Recently, there have been a spate of articles about cruise line art auctions, including a story in the New York Times:

Art Auctions on Cruise Ships Lead to Anger, Accusations and Lawsuits  – NY Times

Cruise Ship Art Auction Controversy – Cruisemates, an online cruise guide community – includes a video of an auctioneer reading (mumbling) the rules of an auction and a copy of a Park West invoice. (Thanks to Gary Kerr of Fine Art Giclee for the head’s up on this article.)

The American Bar Association ran this story: Unhappy Art Buyers File Lawsuits Over Cruise Ship Art Auctions

There are other articles and reports you can find, but these cover most of the important issues surrounding the controversy of cruise line art auctions. Whenever the art market is sullied with questionable sales tactics or worse, it hurts the efforts of the vast honest majority who only wish to make a living and have their art appreciated by collectors. Not all the problems occur at sea. There are plenty of examples of fraud, forgery and deceit foisted on unsuspecting art buyers on dry land. Wherever it happens, FAR has taken some bold steps to try and intervene where it sees serious problems and to offer a solution. I wish it well.

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  1. In spite of the credit crisis, most customers who go to a fine art auction, aren’t affected by the middle class press or imploding housing market, as 6,000 to 7,000 eager bidders appeared at many of the fine art auctions this year

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