Art Collectors

We are on a free cruise. A couple of months ago, Dwayne got a call from Park West Gallery asking us if we’d like to go on a free cruise. At first we thought it was a sales scam. What kind of hard sales would we be subject to? After turning down the first offer, they came back with an offer for a VIP cruise out of New York on the NCL Breakaway. Seriously? Had we spent that much on art that we were being offered a free cruise? Clearly, we had.

Our first art purchases were in 1999 on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of San Juan. It was a celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary. Some like to play Bingo while sailing, some like to lie in the sun, some like to spend time in the casino, some like to pub crawl … Me and Dwayne? We enjoyed the art auctions. First, we got free champagne. More importantly, we got to hear stories about artists, and we learned about art and art collecting. (A whole lot more interesting than learning to fold towel animals.)

We lived in the Detroit area from 1987 through 1998, so we were familiar with the Park West Gallery name. The original location is in Southfield, Michigan. As avid NPR listeners, we would often hear the gallery owner, Albert Scalione, invite listeners to the gallery. Collectible art at accessible prices. This is art for the middle class … After all, their “audience” was frequent cruisers … Like us.

We’ve cruised almost annually since 1999. Each trip we looked forward to the auctions … and the more we “collected” the more “accessible” the works seemed to be. No, the art wasn’t getting cheaper, but our idea of a “value” changed as we grew into middle-age; as empty nesters working at the height of our careers, we became more and more desensitized to the opening bid … and we were much better able to predict the value of a painting.

A couple weeks ago, as I was telling people about our upcoming cruise, a friend said, “you never told me you were an art collector.” Actually, I had never thought of myself as an art collector. Art collectors have more money, they are more snobbish, they know more about art … then I thought of the paintings hanging on our walls … The sheer number of framed pieces Michael and Terrie helped us uncrate and hang on our walks when we moved to New Jersey. Yes. We are clearly art collectors. We have a style we like, we’ve collected some obscure works as well as some of the masters. And, we are running out of walls.

Last night, one of the other collectors asked if this was our first VIP event. Yes, it is. “Were you intimidated when you first got the invitation?”, he asked. Yes! I remember thinking … I’d be in the wrong class, they don’t understand we’re not in that category, and what would I wear? Now that we’re here, I realize … Art collectors are just like us. Some have more funds available, some less. Some are more pretentious, some less, some have been collecting for decades, some are brand new to the art world. Mostly, we’ve found another group of friends … And this experience has been great so far. We not only have private VIP auctions, but we have presentations about painters, and we get to meet the artists!

The NCL Breakaway is a new ship who’s hull was designed by Peter Max (see the photo above) … Guess who we met the first day? Peter Max!!!! Last night we met the surrealist painter, François Bouchiex. Tomorrow night? It’s still a mystery, but I’m sure hoping for Linda LeKinff … She’s the first artist we started collecting. I’ll let you know.