The Art of Piracy

On the high seas, it may be best to resist the urge to buy a masterpiece.

This time, Kifer and Sexton bit even harder, leaving a quarter of a million dollars onboard.

By now, they owned a couple of works by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, and Joan Miró and several pieces by Romain de Tirtoff, who is known in the art world as "Erté," the French pronunciation of his initials.

"I started buying art in Washington, D.C., and Texas... in the early 1980s at auctions and galleries," Sexton says. "I just have always enjoyed art. The only reason a person should buy art is because you love it. You've got to connect with the artist or the piece, and you've got to love it in five or ten years and not say 'This was supposed to make me money.'"

The following summer, Kifer and Sexton flew to Copenhagen for a Baltic cruise, another complimentary art connoisseur trip. At one of the champagne receptions, they met Martiros Manoukian, a Soviet Union-born surrealist painter who immigrated to the United States during the Cold War. They were enchanted.

They immediately connected to Manoukian's Tranquil Remorse, a female nude showing a little backside, some side-boob, and a face obscured by a wild mane. It was not at all clear what the unnamed woman was remorseful about.

Was it worth a lot of money? Who the hell knows? It's art.

Princess described Tranquil Remorse as a one-of-a-kind original that happened to grace the cover of one of Manoukian's art books. Sexton says the deep shades of blue gave her a sorrowful yet calm feeling. She wanted it.

She wasn't the only one. Kifer and Sexton fought off competition and eventually won out with a bid of $71,640. Both Bronson and Manoukian congratulated them.

Later, they say, they got a handwritten note from Manoukian reminding them that the painting had come from his private collection. He thanked them again and wished them "peace and happiness."

And peace and happiness is what they had for another year, as their nude kept remorsing on a wall back home. But then, in the summer of 2005, they took another cruise courtesy of Princess, this time for 12 days in the Mediterranean.

And that's when they really learned the meaning of the word remorse.

"It was absolutely unbelievable!" Kifer says. "When we saw the same identical Tranquil Remorse that we had bought the year before, we were stunned."

Their fellow collectors noticed too and asked the two women if it was the painting they had bought that was up for sale again.

"Everyone was shocked," Sexton says.

They went straight to Manoukian and Bronson, both present for this sale as well, for an explanation about why their "one-of-a-kind original" was up for sale again.

"We were told — well, it was a lie — by the art director [Bronson] to calm down and that when we got home, we would see that the paintings were different," Sexton says. "In our eyes, they were identical."

Manoukian seemed flabbergasted, they say.

"He said there's been a big mistake," Sexton says. "But at the same time, he seemed to be saying that artists can do whatever they want. He was saying that the marketing was the problem."

They say Bronson and Manoukian tried to quiet them, telling them their Tranquil Remorsewas distinctly different from the one on the auction block. Bronson, Kifer says, suggested that the figure portrayed in the painting back in Delaware had a rose clenched in her teeth. (She didn't.)

"They did what they wanted, and they ignored us. And I think they did it out of greed."

Kifer and Sexton watched as the second Tranquil Remorse sold for $20,000 less than the one they'd paid for.

Still, the bubbly was free.


Alan Bamberger, a connoisseur who wrote a book called The Art of Buying Art, says he's working on a new edition that will include a chapter addressing cruise line programs.

"It's not how to buy art," he says, then later uses a solid Anglo-Saxon term to describe the Frenchified selling techniques on the glorified barges:

"It's bullshit."

Fort Lauderdale estate liquidator and art dealer David Fernan says the cruise lines use the French language to confuse consumers and add importance to items for sale.

Many times, when he's inspecting an estate and looking for things to buy, he comes across art sold on cruise lines. Inevitably, the asking price is in the thousands of dollars, and Fernan has to break it to the sellers that the true value is closer to $30.

"I try to tell them it's a poster," he says. "And they say, 'No it's a giclée,'" pronouncing the word zhee-CLAY.

He turns the artwork over and shows a cruise line mark and explains that what they have isn't something done by hand but by mechanical means. Giclée may be the preferred term on a cruise, but the word translates to "fine spray" and describes a process using high-quality digital ink printers to reproduce art. Initially intended for artists to use as a way to proof their work, it's now used to produce commercial prints en masse.

"It sounds good," Bamberger says. "But it's a digital print. It really has nothing to do with the art."

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1 comments
schultzybeckett
schultzybeckett

If you've ever been to the Broken Shaker, you already know Orta and his team do not make ordinary cocktails. With an apothecary-style assortment of bitters, juices, and herbs, you never know what you might be served. As cocktail culture continues to spread across the country, it only makes sense cruise lines, hotels and resorts are striving to up their beverage game with programs like Norwegian's.

Thanks

Schultzy

CEOhttp://www.exportingart.com/


 
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