“Cruise Ship Art –Have you been following the Park West Case?”

Although I have long advised clients one-by-one NOT to buy the art on cruise ships and have been sharing bad news about the artwork they have brought for examination after buying on cruise ships, I have only taken on the purveyors of the fakes by way of appraising the several pieces that have been brought to me by their owners.  I have just performed my duties as appraiser and left  my clients to pursue refunds on their own.

I have been aware of a case percolating that involved Park West Galleries, a Southfield, MI gallery and also one of the biggest contractors for art auctions aboard Royal Caribbean cruise lines and Fine Art Registry, a business based in Phoenix, AZ.  Fine Art Registry is an art service business that offers a tagging /tracking system to owners and artists that has the potential of helping keep provenance (ownership history) records of pieces of art much more accurate into the future.

It seems Fine art Registry had been contacted by several people who had bought art aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and had found, to their dismay, that when the pieces were independently appraised, they were not at all what had been represented to be.  I am not sure when FAR’s CEO Teri Franks began her research into the validity of the artwork.  FAR had published a few articles warning against cruise ship art.    Apparently Park West Gallery was not at all amused.   Late in 2008, Park West sued FAR for defamation, claiming that these articles had cost them lots of business.

As you likely know, the only defense against a defamation lawsuit is truth.  A person or entity cannot be defamed if every statement made about them has been true.   As lawsuits always do, this case has dragged on for quite some time.  Throughout the course of it, Fine Art Registry has been posting video updates to YouTube speaking about their various findings, the experts or so-called experts involved on either side of the case and some of the strong-arm tactics attempted by Park West in order to try to make the case go its way.

The trial itself took several weeks to play out.  It involved compelling testimony of several victims of the fraud as well as handwriting experts, experts on the prints of Salvador Dalí and an appraiser on the Park West Side who has claimed for years to be the “last and best source on the works of Dalí” and who helped perpetrate these frauds by lending his name as a supposed authenticator of many items.

Unfortunately for Park West, the suit was just settled this week in Michigan Federal Court and Fine Art Registry was exonerated.   Park West was proven to have been selling fake art to the public on an ongoing basis.   There are likely several other lawsuits, both civil and criminal, that will spring from this decision.   I would encourage anyone who has LOTS of time on their hands and wants the juicy details to read the very good summary of the case and its verdict in artdaily.org.  Here is the hot link: http://artdaily.org/section/news/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=38076&b=park%20west (Thanks to my friend and fellow appraiser Bob Banks for sending this to me).

Additionally, you can find several videos about the case on fine art registries website: http://fineartregistry.com or by going to YouTube and searching for ‘fine art registry,’ This all makes for fascinating reading and watching.   I hope that the bottom line is that eventually some of the fake art will be taken off the market.  I also hope that collectors will become much more savvy about what they purchase and from whom.

Bottom line…best thing to do on a cruise is to play shuffleboard, climb the rock wall or eat the gourmet food!

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