Buying Art at a Cruise Auction

by Jeffrey Hauser - Date: 2007-03-07 - Word Count: 759 Share This!

I've been cruising and collecting art for over 30 years. I collect limited edition, signed and numbered prints, which are far less costly than originals, but can still demand high prices. I have some worth over $6000 and others valued at $300. Whatever your reason for collecting, only buy pieces you enjoying seeing. I wouldn't buy the ugliest Picasso just because it might be a bargain. Unless it's strictly for investment purposes and will never leave the vault, buy art for beauty and style. With that said, why would you buy art on a cruise ship?

Let's start with the basics. It's a cruise, which is a terrific vacation all by itself. Now, assuming you have, or are considering, going on a cruise, most major lines have art auctions at sea. For instance, Princess Cruise Lines, whose parent company owns Carnival and Cunard, has their own internal program. Royal Caribbean uses Park West Galleries and pays them a percentage.

It's more recently become a fashionable way to spend a few hours and can be enjoyable and rewarding for the patron and the art dealer. Even if you have no knowledge of art, you can learn something at the auction. The presenter will spend a fair amount of time describing various art print processes and mediums, because the vast majority of art is in the form of limited edition signed prints, although they do have some original paintings and sculptures. They will also introduce the artist and offer plenty of background information. Some prints come framed, others are sent in tubes. Either way, they are shipped to you at home, so you aren't required to take them after purchase.

The auction works in a simple manner. You can preview the art available before the auction and tag anything you may want to see come up for sale. Those pieces are called "requests" and will be put along with those other items the auctioneer needs to "push-to-sell." The way the pricing is set is as follows; All the art has been previously appraised and has a predetermined minimum or "reserve" price. This is what the dealer needs to get back for the piece. It can be $50 or $50,000.

The auctioneer will begin the bidding at that price. You bid in one of two ways. Some auctions require a credit card and registration prior to the auction and you get a paddle or number. Others just allow anyone to raise their hand and bid. So you indicate that you want to pay the price offered by a hand or paddle raised high. And no, if you have to scratch your head at that very moment, you have not automatically bought a Rembrandt. In fact, if unsure, the auctioneer will clarify the bid.

Then, if no one bids on the piece at the minimum, it's put aside. If there is only one bid, that one person gets it. If more than one bid occurs, it goes to the highest bidder or, if there are several pieces available, each gets that piece for the highest bid. That's the way it goes. There is a selling premium or fee then added to the price to cover a variety of expenses, usually 10 to 15 percent. Add shipping or framing if needed and you have your credit card total, charged to your ship's account. That's the process in a nutshell.

Now here are my words of wisdom. If you can't do your homework before the trip, you are relying on the dealer to present a fair price. Depending on the artist or piece, that could be good or bad. If you want an expense piece badly, don't bid the first day. During a 7 day cruise, you'll have an average of three auctions. So pass on the opening day, but take note of the art and artist of the pieces you like. Then, when you have the time, head for the Internet Café (which all newer ships have) and Google and research. See what's been sold and educate yourself. Then wait for the next or final auction, armed with knowledge, which means power.

Finally, don't let any dealer talk you into any artwork as an investment piece. If it does go up in value in the future, then great. But that's not always the case. Instead, buy it because you can afford it and you like it. There are both good and bad deals onboard. Lie in the casino, don't bet the farm. The main thing is to have fun and come away with a positive experience. Bon voyage and happy bidding!

Related Tags: cruise, auctions, buying, ship, art, cruising, sea, prints, paintings

Jeffrey Hauser was a sales consultant for the Bell System Yellow Pages for nearly 25 years. He graduated from Pratt Institute with a BFA in Advertising and has a Master's Degree in teaching. He had his own advertising agency in Scottsdale, Arizona and ran a consulting and design firm, ABC Advertising. He has authored 6 books and a novel, "Pursuit of the Phoenix." His latest book is, "Inside the Yellow Pages" which can be seen at his website, Currently, he is the Marketing Director for, a Health Information and Doctor Referral site.

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