If you're planning to attend an art auction on one of the Princess cruise ships, I'd like to warn you of the pit-falls of buying their art based on my recent experience.
My husband and I had purchased several works of art on previous cruises and had been impressed by both the promises of the auctioneers and the follow-up by Princess Fine Art. We'd spent about $80,000 total and, as promised, had been allowed to return one piece for a full refund and another to be reframed. In another case, Princess asked us to return a Picasso etching because they were no longer sure of its authenticity. In that case, they gave us an additional 15% because our money had been tied up in it for almost two years. Long story short, our previous experiences had been good, so we didn't hesitate to spend more money when we took a cruise on the Star Princess in the fall of 2006.
During our cruise in the fall, we purchased (or rather attempted to purchase): 1) an Alexandra Nechita painting, which we selected from a photograph because the painting was on another ship, 2) an Alexandra Nechita sculpture at an auction on the ship, and 3) a Roxy lithograph that was not on the ship but which we'd seen before. Here's how each of those purchases turned out...
1) Alexandra Nechita painting, $42,000 plus buyer's premium of $4200.
When we received the painting and saw it in person, we decided that we did not want it, partly because the colors were not as vibrant as we expected and partly because we decided we wanted something larger (which we WOULD have bought on a future Princess cruise). Although we'd been told we had 90 days to return the painting for a full refund, I received a message from Princess on January 15th saying that they would NOT refund the $4200 buyer's premium. Fortunately for us, their accounting department screwed up and I had already received a check for the full amount a couple of days prior to their message.
2) Alexandra Nechita sculpture, $13,500 plus buyer's premium of $1350. We were led to believe we were buying the sculpture on the ship, as they supposedly had three in their inventory; however, six weeks later when we still hadn't received it, I inquired as to where it was and found out that they were waiting on additional sculptures from the artist and that it would be approximately SIX MONTHS before we would receive it. Initially I was told that our buyer's premium would be forfeited if we cancelled the order, but after I pointed out that selling one piece of fine and delivering another constitutes fraud, I did receive a message that the full amount would be returned. I finally received a check on February 23rd, approximately six weeks after I asked for a refund and over four months after we had paid for the sculpture in full.
3) Roxy lithograph, approximately $200. This was another piece I had to inquire about after six weeks, only to find out they had no record of the purchase. After I provided proof, they did send it promptly; however, the frame was damaged and the glass scratched. They offered
to reframe it, so I returned it, and it was then sent back in another frame that was also damaged, but we decided to just live with it.
While I still believe you can SOMETIMES get good prices on the artwork from Princess, you really have to do your research. For example, shortly before our fall cruise we had been to a Nechita show at a local gallery, and so we knew the prices on the less expensive works (like the lithos) were a good deal, but the paintings were selling right at the same price. The other advice I'd give is: 1) Don't buy anything unless you're absolutely sure you want to keep it forever or are willing to sell it through a third party, 2) Don't believe anything the auctioneers tell you...there's a reason it's not in writing, and 3) Don't believe that Princess Fine Art values you as a customer, no matter how much you spend.