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Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Cruising Art Gallery

Art at sea is a bit more compact, but otherwise not too unlike what
one would find in a storefront gallery.
Elvis Rocks, Scott Jacobs
As I've mentioned a from time to time recently, we just got back from a fifteen-day cruise aboard Princess Cruise Line's Island Princess. Being the "arty" sort, I find it fascinating to view from afar the world of art as it applies to the ubiquitous cruise ship art gallery. Virtually every cruise ship I've ever been aboard (twelve in all) has a generous amount of space leased to a land-based art gallery in order to tempt the comfortably well-off guests aboard into purchasing various types of art (usually limited edition prints). Originals are a bit pricey even for this crowd. Although there are some "off the rack" sales, most of the money changing hands for art comes as a result of numerous art auctions on "sea days" during the cruise. To their credit, these floating art purveyors do make some effort to educate potential buyers. Their seminars are a quick and easy way to pick up a few interesting tidbits on art from the past. Princess Fine Arts featured a presentation, "Thirty Thousand Years of Art." This they covered with a PowerPoint presentation lasting forty-five minutes. I could probably have done a reasonably decent job narrating the show myself, but even at that, my head was spinning by the time the art "expert" finished his discourse.

On Caribbean cruises, works such as this by Alex Pauker are always
a crowd-pleasing favorite.
I use the term "art expert" cautiously in that most of these people's art expertise is in selling art rather than expounding upon it to any great degree other that to hype their stable of living artists. There are always a few headliner artists who have become household names (Peter Max, Thomas Kinkaid, and LeRoy Neiman, for instance). But by and large, most are relatively unknown, many of them not without good reason. Roughly three years ago I wrote glowingly about the lavish art collections many cruise liners boast. I also mentioned in passing my unfavorable opinion of onboard art auctions. Maybe I've mellowed a little but in more recent years I've come to the floating art racket with something more like an amused fascination. I kind of enjoy watching fellow passengers pour good money into mediocre printed art as an investment. Some investment! Limited edition prints are exceedingly hard to resell at a profit, though they do exceedingly well in covering up cracks in the plaster.

Duplex with 6 Mattresses, Fanch Ledan
Despite what I said a moment ago about the stable of living artists floating galleries such as Park West and Princess Fine Art maintain, I did find a few which, insofar as my own tastes are concerned, stood apart from the others. One or two, such a Fanch Ledan and his Duplex with 6 Mattresses (above), I found refreshingly creative in a clean, simple manner rare in narrative art today. Then there was the very generous space Princess offered Alexander Chen (below) with his urban scenes from New York and many other major cities around the globe. I was utterly captivated by his work.

New York, New York! Alexander Chen.
Kudos to Princess Fine Arts for highlighting his work.
And while I'm touting favorites, let me mention another artist by the name of Chen (no relation so far as I know). I'd seen and admired the work of Hua Chen in a number of other seagoing art galleries before. Princess's showing of his work (below) was somewhat meager, but seems to be a favorite of both those who abhor art auctions and those who flock to them. I wouldn't buy one of his paintings (even if I could afford it) and you already know what I think regarding prints, but that doesn't keep me from admiring his loving warmth whenever I see it.

Warm and loving or cool and glamorous, Hua Chen handles exorbitant quantities
of paint with confident strokes few other painters have mastered.
Also exceedingly well represented in the Island Princess art gallery was the work of the fifty-year-old Russian painter, Victor Shaivko. Although he and Alexander Chen both paint urban scenes, any other similarities end at that point. In viewing Saivko's work (below) he seems more Italian than Russian with perhaps a little Parisian thrown in for excitement. I suppose I like his work because I like Venice (despite having visited there for only two days). Saivko appears to not only like Venice but to be infatuated with it's quaint canals and narrow passages lined with picturesque shops and sidewalk cafes. it's all fantasy of course. Venice may be picturesque but "quaint," as seen by Saivko, it's not. Still, we can all daydream if we like, and Victor Shaivko seems to like nothing better, except for painting his daydreams.

Shaivko is not totally Venetian. He gives equal time to other
quaint, picturesque, Mediterranean venues as well.
And finally, last but not least, comes the wildlife of Andrew Bone. I saved him for toward the end because, as wildlife painters go, while his work is above average in many ways, he's also just one of many wildlife artists working today of equal or greater talent. However, he stands apart as seen in the movable feast of cruise ship art only because, either inadvertently or deliberately, these galleries do not display much along the line of Bone's specialty. There are probably dozens of marketing and economic factors in play with regard to selling wildlife art and I'm guessing few of them are particularly favorable to the art auction scenario. Be that as it may, the work of Andrew Bone deserves more exposure than it gets on the limited movable partitions and the forest of easels on a cruise ship.

How's this for exposure?

Marine art is never far removed from seagoing
art galleries. Try as I have, I can't decipher the
artist's signature on this one.

They say elephants can create abstract
paintings. Looks like they're right.
Princess Fine Arts has a sense of humor.


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