Chapter 42. The Case of the Seductive Souvenir, or Cruise Ship Art
Yes, I must admit, my wife and I are part of that demographic that favours the convenience and relaxed atmosphere of cruise ship travel. The opportunity to visit exotic locales, explore island environments in sunny climes and interact with different cultures all without the trouble and malaise associated with airline travel is especially appealing to many of us.
I have, on occasion, in the company of my ever-patient and long-suffering wife, attended onboard art auctions. These I have found to be little more than an excuse to involve passengers in an activity designed to give them the vicarious experience, however modest, of the notoriety and excitement associated with being involved in the high-priced world of art auctions.
Those who supply artworks for sale at onboard auctions and in onboard art galleries seem to have taken a lesson from the marketers of work by souvenir painters. They are the artists who specialize in rendering urban scenes of some of the great cities of Europe, among them London, Amsterdam, Madrid and, especially, Paris and Venice. Souvenir painters have long produced, and continue to produce, works that are designed to evoke joyful nostalgia those feelings associated with a visit to a particular locale and the enjoyment that one presumably experienced there as an enthusiastic tourist.
To accommodate this joyful nostalgia, it appears that operators of some cruise ship lines have extended their portfolios to enhance those souvenir buying opportunities by marketing paintings of similar nostalgic composition and intent in onboard auctions or art galleries. To supply the increasing demand for such images, some artists have set up studios in well-frequented cruise ship destinations, such as Capri, Saint-Tropez and Santorini, where they focus on painting village scenes and the surrounding environment, almost exclusively to target the cruise ship tourist market. Most of these images follow a particular compositional format and stylistically evoke an Impressionistic technique one that incorporates the use of bold, bright and regionally familiar colour. Artists such as Howard Behrens, Barbara McCann and Steve Barton, to name only a few, are likely familiar to regular travellers on the cruise ship circuit.
These images are sold as signed and numbered limited-edition serigraphs that have been hand embellished, meaning that paint (usually acrylic) has been added to highlight certain areas of the image and to give the serigraph the look and feel of a finished painting. The piece shown here, by Howard Behrens, is marked AP 43/75. This means it is an artists proof, numbered 43 from an edition of 75 artist proofs. One wonders why there are 75 artists proofs when usually artist proofs number five or so.
Essentially, what this approach does is marry two different media (the serigraph and the painting) with a directed marketing strategy, with the intent of satisfying the need for joyful nostalgia documentation.
This practice, of course, seems to work well for the targeted audience, for whom both nostalgia and memory are important.
Next: The Case of Leni and the Nuba