The art of the auction

I’m sure a lot of you have been to those “art auctions” used for fundraising, as had I. So when I saw that there would be an art auction on my cruise through Alaska, I decided to take a look. (Turns out, it was the first of several art auctions, selling being one of the hallmarks of the entire trip–selling the massages and work-out classes, selling the cocktails, selling cruiseware and souvenirs, selling wine tastings, and selling art).

So, amid the tossing of the brief crossing through open seas, I headed off to the (free) champagne and the display of art. So much art for every taste. Most of the works were artist’s prints (no surprise here). There were prints of sexy gals with doe eyes, of sappy animals and of women walking down the beach. There were Chagall look-alikes and real Chagalls, there were decent Norman Rockwells and bad Picassos and a number of Ertes. There were also collectibles like a Ted Williams autographed baseball, Nascar memoribilia, and an Elton John autographed LP. Sentimentality and convention preponderated (is there such a word?).


The auctioneer began a spiel. At one point he actually said that the show had work representing the five most influential artists of modern times–namely Picasso, Chagall, Miro, (I didn’t get number four jotted down in time) and number five was none other than Zamy Steynovitz. Honest, he really said this.

Now I had never heard of this guy, but I had noticed a couple of his pieces early on–not-quite Chagalls.

He explained that the reason the auction prices were so low (were they?) was that the cruise line bought the work outright, that it wasn’t on consignment, and therefore, the artists (did they really buy this from the artists, so many of them dead?) were willing to sell them for less.


He went on to note the unique works (i.e. paintings, not prints) by Harold Behrens ( the auctioneer said, of course, those of you who know Behrens’ work will be excited about this) and Peter Max, whose Statue of Liberty was a typical self-parody (shown at top, about 12″ square, probably acrylic).

About 25 people came to the auction, and the bidding was hardly competitive, with people taking things at base price for the most part.

livelyswoonflashA print called “Rhapsody in Blue” by Zina Roitman went for its asking price of $146. In the same price range went “Swoon,” by Matt Lively, from Texas(right, sorry about another annoying photo). A cat with sunglasses riding a motorcycle actually excited two bidders and each ultimately took home a print at an only slightly higher price than the base.


An oil, asking price in the $3,000 range, evinced not a bid.

By then I’d had enough champagne and needed to sober up for the wine tasting, so off I went. The wine tasting ultimately cost me more than the art auction, but I enjoyed it more.