I was sailing the waters of the Caribbean on a cruise with my family when the pirate attacked. This pirate did not have a parrot, peg leg, or eye patch. She wore the traditional garb of art galleries everywhere: the little black dress. I survived to tell the tale of treachery and treasure.
“I see you’re interested in the Max,” said the young lady in the little black dress (LBD). “Yes,” I replied. What else could I say? I was looking at it intently. “I have a couple of other Maxes,” she cooed, leading me deeper into the section of the ship that served as the on-board art gallery. “Do you collect Max?” she purred.
Hmmm, I wondered. Do I really look like I collect the work of Peter Max, or any other artist? Or does she say that to every man who walks into her gallery? I thought she probably used that line all the time. I decided she could think that way of me if she chose, so long as I didn’t fool myself into thinking I was some big shot collector ripe to be separated from his money.
LBD showed me her art, invited me to the upcoming art auction, introduced me to her boss (who could make things happen, she promised), and told me she could give me a special deal if I really wanted any of the Maxes. She even slipped some coupons good for additional discounts under my cabin door that night. She was working hard.
I went to the auction but kept a low profile. There were a lot of big names among the artists represented, but sales were sluggish. LBD seemed to be taking bids out of nowhere. Could this really be the world’s largest art gallery? Well, if your business model involves having your inventory on dozens of cruise ships around the world, you might be able to make such a claim. But the idea of buying fine art on a cruise ship seemed like a disconnect, and there were a number of other nagging doubts in my mind. I decided that because I had not intended to buy art before boarding the ship, there was no need to leave with any. I’ll buy if and when I’m ready. So long, Max.
When on got back on dry land I did some research. This gallery with the New York sounding name was actually in the Midwest. It was afflicted with a lot of complaints, legal actions, and just plain bad luck. It also turns out that auctions conducted on the high seas are not subjected to the legal niceties of doing business in a land-based jurisdiction. Peter Max, the iconic pop artist, is still alive and creating art. Lots of art. Mostly painting a few details and his signature onto mass-produced works. I saw loads of them on eBay, most at asking prices below those of LBD’s.
What can we learn from this voyage?
Don’t succumb to flattery.
Don’t flatter yourself either, but know yourself.
Never rush into a major purchase. Do your homework and shop around.
There are always good deals to be had, but it takes work to find them. They don’t scream “GOOD DEAL” in flashing lights. And they don’t usually come with coupons.
Having said that, buying something without a coupon may be a bad deal, but buying something with a coupon is not necessarily a good deal.
When you are isolated at sea without phone or internet access you are at a serious disadvantage. You can also negotiate in the dark on land. Negotiate only when you have adequate information and other resources.
Google, Wikipedia, and eBay are great starting points.
Nobody goes on a cruise to buy fine art, so don’t buy any on one. You can buy cheap art anywhere, if you like it.
Beware the LBD. They wear them for a reason.