marni

Whether a work of art is an original, a signed and numbered serigraph, or a poster of the same image will impact its value, said Candace Hill, a certified art appraiser in the Denver area who offered this example. At auction, a signed poster (left) of Andy Warhol’s 'Marilyn' sold for $952. A signed silkscreen print (center) sold for $156,250, and a signed original (right) sold for $28 million.

I know you’re going to make fun of me, so let’s just get this over with. I bought art on a cruise ship. OK, laugh. While gallery owners and art appraisers will mock you for doing this, you could do worse.?

My husband and I faced an unusual situation at our house: a blank wall. I had moved some art around, leaving a glaringly empty wall in the entryway. This is problematic because?DC and I have different tastes and different philosophies about acquiring art. I like to buy art from local artists. He likes art from “known” artists.

We also both work so don’t have the luxury of strolling through art galleries or going to art auctions at Sotheby’s. If, while out on my own, I see a piece I like, chances of getting him to see it are slim, and chances he’ll like it even slimmer. So, the wall stayed bare.?

“We’ll look on our cruise,” DC said a couple of months back, referring to a long-planned vacation coming up. I sighed. He’s a bigger fan of cruises. The thought of these oversized ships with their central parks, ice rinks, massive buffets and free-flowing alcohol used to make me want to climb into a tent with a granola bar and read a book by flashlight. But he convinced me to try one. I have come around. And that’s marriage.?

Onboard auctions

He has also convinced me to attend the ship’s art auctions, which I used to think were cheesy, because, in fact, some of the art for sale is cheesy, like the kind where two olives hold hands and dance in a martini glass. This isn’t a judgment. It’s simply a fact.?

Park West, the company that runs art auctions for many cruise lines, knows what its cruising customers like. It also knows that when vacationers are out to sea with all their cares on a distant shore, they are primed to splurge.

These shipmates hold a glass of Champagne in one hand and a numbered paddle in the other. They sit on velvet chairs in a room with others in the same boat, literally. Next, a fast-talking auctioneer unveils artworks on stage, extols the virtues of the artist and the piece, and explains why you must that minute become its owner.?

Numbers and money (from $50 to five figures) fly. Gavels bang. And next thing you know, someone is going home with a signed, numbered, framed Salvador Dali. It’s crazy. But I’ve decided if my husband and his wallet are open to buying art on a ship, I’m onboard.?

Knowing what you want

We agreed on this. We wanted a contemporary, preferably original work, about 30 inches by 40 inches with blues and oranges, a water motif because we live in Florida and, oh, in our budget. Although the chances of finding a piece that hit that sweet spot were as likely as finding a casino on Mars, we told the auctioneer what we were looking for. He opened his laptop and pulled up several works available on the ship, including one from a rising Florida artist that miraculously checked all our boxes. He showed us the actual piece and price.?

We researched the artist online to find out what his pieces sold for. The opening bid for the framed original was much lower. “Sailing at Dawn” is on its way to our home.?

The whole experience made me realize I needed a fine art refresher. Whether on land or sea, the uninitiated can quickly get into deep water buying art. Back home, I called fine art appraiser Susan Filebark, of Vero Beach, Florida. Filebark learned her craft from her mother, who appraised art for museums, and had as one of her maxims: “Never buy art on a cruise ship!”?

We got that laugh out of the way, and then she helped me break down what affects art value, so if you ever find yourself with a paddle in one hand and Champagne in the other, you’ll be ready.

THE ARTIST: How well-known the artist is will affect sales price. Some collectors only want signed originals or limited-edition art from listed artists, defined as an artist who has sold art at an auction.

ORIGINAL OR LIMITED-EDITION:?Although a one-of-a-kind signed original will command the highest price, if an original by an artist you like is out of your price range, look for serigraphs, stone lithographs or engravings by that artist. These limited-edition prints are produced in multiples yet are still considered fine art. Because the printing plates deteriorate with multiple impressions, production stops when the artist, who generally oversees the printing, no longer approves of the quality, thus making a limited edition.

SIGNED AND NUMBERED: In the bottom margin of a limited-edition print is a fraction, such as 42/150, written in pencil. That indicates it is the 42nd print in a run of 150. The artist typically signs each print. Usually, these print runs are under 250. Runs much over that make the print less valuable.

GICL?ES: An ink-jet printing technique that transfers digitized scans of fine art directly onto canvas, giclées allow for realistic reproductions at affordable prices. To tell the difference between a giclée and an original, look closely with a magnifying loupe for any pixelation or cross-hatching. Also, feel it. A giclée won’t have any paint build-up from brushstrokes. The exception is with hand-embellished giclées, where the artist (presumably) paints over parts of a giclée to give it an authentic look, and signs it. Though this will raise the value, it’s still a giclée underneath.

OPEN EDITION PRINTS: These are basically posters with large press runs. They are worth only their decorative value. Sometimes artists sign posters, say at a museum exhibition, which may increase the value, but doesn’t make it a limited-edition print.

THE VALUE HIERARCHY: If Filebark were to use dollar symbols like those in a dining guide to assign value from most to least expensive, an original would be $$$$$, a signed limited-edition fine art print $$-$$$ and a giclée $. I have all of these in my home.?

“If you want to buy art by a certain artist,” Filebark said, “look in the secondhand market. Watch for works to come up at art auctions or find the artist and buy direct from his studio.” Galleries are also an option.

Or, if you like having a wide selection, a choice of frames, the cost of shipping included and free Champagne, check your snobbishness at the door and consider buying art on a cruise ship.

Marni Jameson is the author of seven books on home and lifestyle. She can be reached at www.marnijameson.com.