Are you worth a few million bucks? Do you live near the ocean in a large and
ostentatious house with a lot of walls? Do you not know much about art but you
know what you like? Then welcome aboard the Grande Luxe!
Alexandra Wolfe introduces
us to the Grande Luxe, and its owner, David Lester,
in the September issue of Portfolio. It’s a 228-foot yacht with 28 different
gallery spaces, each of them rented out to a second-tier gallery that most art
world sophisticates would never step into.
Anyone who wants to visit SeaFair has to apply online and answer questions
about his or her collection. But most of the art-related questions are merely
a formality, Lester admits. “Their collection doesn’t really matter,”
he says. “Preference goes to the person with the most money.”
If anything, I suspect that serious collectors are precisely the people Lester
doesn’t want. If you own a Tuymans or a Kippenberger or a Mehretu, SeaFair,
as his peripatetic floating art fair has been named, is not for you. Rather,
the idea is to take the stratospheric valuations of those art-world stars, and
use them to justify ridiculously high prices for artists who will never find
themselves in an evening sale at Sotheby’s. The target audience, not to put
too fine a point on it, is rich rubes, not the art-world insiders who flock
to Art Basel and other international fairs.
Can the seven- and eight-figure price tags from Art Basel trickle down into
big profits from SeaFair? I’m not sure. On the one hand, one can never underestimate
the amount of money that rich people are willing to spend on just about anything.
On the other hand, these are people who would never dream of spending more money
on paintings than they did on buying their house in the first place.
Can the small galleries on the yacht make a steady profit selling paintings
in the $10,000 to $40,000 range? Apparently they’re paying about $80,000 a month
in rent, which means they’re going to have to move quite a lot of product in
order to make a profit. But just think about all those empty walls in those
brand-new McMansions. They’re crying out for art, and SeaFair’s exhibitors
will bring it straight to your door. How easy is that?