The Smell of the Oil Paint, the Roar of the Crowd

 In Art & Gallery News, Articles, Cruise Art Auctions at Sea

Written by John S., Art Director for Park West Gallery Cruise Auctions at Sea

Out of all the things that are said to me as an Art Director for Park West Galleries aboard cruise ships, one sticks out in my mind more than any other. Without fail, almost every week, it crops up in conversation between Park West Gallery collectors and myself. In some form it comes out as, “Wow, what a great job this is!” It is a simple enough statement and is easy enough to respond to on a very superficial level, but there is much more to it. People of all ages, art backgrounds, and nationalities say it, with a hint of jealousy or admiration in their eyes at times, as though they would trade a limb for a chance at such a profession.Park West Gallery, cruise art auction at sea

In response, I smile and agree, usually throwing in something about being one of the luckiest people in the world. But after months of this same repartee with a hundred different faces, it really does make you think. At face value, this career path does look like a dream come true, ripe with travel and exciting new relationships every week, while being surrounded by world-class artwork every day. That is the surface level that all cruise ship guests immediately see, but in truth, there is much more to this life, both positive and negative. The travel is wonderful, but that traveling takes us away from loved ones for months at a time. Meeting hundreds of people every week is fascinating and unique, but at times it can be exhausting. The good thing is, there really isn’t a downside to being surrounded by artwork every day.

There are two sides to every aspect of life on a cruise ship, and as art professionals representing Park West Gallery onboard, there are even more complications at times. We are charged with both educating and entertaining strangers, regarding a subject that can be intimidating to many people. Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we fail, but week in and week out, we keep trying. So therefore, the question that rolls around in my mind as I finish each week, as I balance my victories and failures against one another, is what keeps me going?

As I embark on a third contract with Park West Gallery, I can finally answer that question. This job may be full of the highest highs and the lowest lows, but I know what keeps me coming back for more. It is the light that flashes in someone’s eye when they learn something new during a Masters Seminar, or the awe on a client’s face when they come face to face with a three hundred and sixty year old Rembrandt etching. There is no feeling in the world like shaking a person’s hand after they collect a work of art they truly love, whether it is a Picot or a Picasso.

It is a rare chance these days to help someone add something not only to their own life, but also to their family for the future. Being a part of that connection, or playing any sort of role in that experience is a difficult feeling to describe, but it makes every “lowest low” worthwhile. That feeling is why we spend our Christmases in Cozumel, and our New Years Eve celebrations in the middle of the ocean. It is the same sensation that fills the room during an auction, the same breathless silence during a seminar when art history is revealed before people’s eyes. Quite simply, as my title implied, it’s the smell of the oil paint and the roar of the crowd. It is what I spend my life seeking, what I love more than anything to find, and what I’ll continue to search for on every ocean that will have me.

A Whole New World of Opportunity
As a global leader in the Fine Art industry, Park West Gallery maintains art galleries aboard cruise ships throughout the world and produces thousands of live art auctions per year. If you are interested in the opportunity to join our team of Art Auction Sales Professionals, please visit Plymouth Auctioneering at

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