Art at Sea: Expoships’ SeaFair

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Art lovers can say goodbye to the days of traveling from one gallery to the next in search of the perfect piece to add to their collection. No longer will they have to trek through cities and scour exhibitions in the quest for the perfect painting, or attend estate sales to find the ideal antique lamp for their home. Instead, appreciators of art can board Expoships’ SeaFair, the fine art yacht that brings the artwork to a port near them.

 “This concept is fresh, original, and just what so many dealers have been waiting for-a new idea that addresses the need to bring the art to those who are interested and can afford to buy it.

Expoships principals David Lester and his wife Lee Ann founded the Palm Beach International Fine Art & Antiques Fair in 1997 and have since traveled the world organizing more than 40 other international fairs. While the Lesters’ events have taken them to locales as far away as Hong Kong, SeaFair works differently: it brings the artwork to you. As the world’s first luxury exhibition megayacht, the SeaFair ship, aptly named Grand Luxe, travels to coastal communities along the United States’ Eastern Seaboard, attracting prestigious guests and fine art connoisseurs with lavish galas and mobile galleries that feature works from prominent international art and antique dealers and jewelers.

SeaFair features exhibitions from around the world, including galleries from New York, London, Munich, and Paris, just to name a few. By bringing the dealers to collectors’ hometowns, SeaFair is endowed with the ability to provide services that no other exhibition could even begin to envision. More than 100 dealers have reserved space aboard the Grand Luxe, and SeaFair provides them with the opportunity to visit collectors’ homes to appraise their existing collections and make suggestions regarding future purchases from the SeaFair’s inventory-a service unsurpassed by any other exhibition. As Alan Rubin of Pelham Galleries from London and Paris explains, “SeaFair is a remarkable and visionary innovation in the art trade.”

These innovations are translated to the art buyers who will not be disappointed in the array of fine art and 12,185 square feet of museum-quality exhibition space available onboard Grand Luxe. The boat, a 228-foot, 2,800-ton megayacht designed by Miami’s award winning yacht designer Luiz de Basto, is surely a work of art in and of itself. The renowned de Basto, who recently won the Show Boats Award for best semi-custom motor yacht interior in June 2007, transformed the Grand Luxe into a first-class, über-luxe traveling gallery, which makes attending an exhibition on the SeaFair an art connoisseur’s dream. Opening night galas at each port paired with lectures by fine art experts and afternoon visits with 28 exhibition galleries makes one wonder why nobody thought of this idea sooner.

Deck one consists of 10 galleries as well as an international coffee bar. Traveling up to the second deck, there are an additional 12 galleries, while the third deck is comprised of a signature five-star restaurant and the remaining six galleries. The stately glass-walled restaurant serves a formal three-course luncheon, as well as a four-course gourmet dinner of fine wines and lavish dishes like roasted herb crust rack of lamb or spice-perfumed Chilean sea bass. The SeaFair sky deck features an open-air restaurant, a harbor-view cocktail reception area, and a champagne and caviar lounge, all of which are ideal for entertaining the society that is onboard on exhibition nights.

“This concept is fresh, original, and just what so many dealers have been waiting for-a new idea that addresses the need to bring the art to those who are interested and can afford to buy it. With careful planning, great execution and good galleries onboard, SeaFair will be a great success,” declares Robert Fishko of Forum Gallery in New York. With the commencement of its inaugural tour in Greenwich on September 25, the SeaFair has already proven to be a success. To establish its place in the art world, the SeaFair and its partner, the Bruce Museum, hosted a week-long event complete with a vernissage black-tie gala that benefited the museum’s education fund.

Following its stint in Connecticut, the Grand Luxe traveled to Port Washington for a five-day exhibition, after which it docked at Chelsea Piers in New York City from October 9-14. Guests to this exclusive, invitation-only event attended an opening night preview party to benefit Gilda’s Club Worldwide-a foundation named for actress Gilda Radner and dedicated to providing meeting places where people living with cancer and their families and friends can build a network of emotional support. Also taking place during the five-day visit in Manhattan was Art Rocks, a Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center Young Friend Group hosted benefit; a sold-out James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour featuring a seven course dinner prepared by former White House chef Walter Scheib; and wine tastings.

Participation in SeaFair is an invitation-only privilege extended to 600 prominent art collectors per port. The invited guests are members of the elite SeaFair Society, an ultra-exclusive membership guild. Guests of the events were attended to by SeaFair’s lavish personal concierge service, “Every Whim,” which orchestrates guests’ participation in the events and galas, as well as arranges for private jets and five-star accommodations, and facilitates museum tours around the port city.

While the foremost goal of the SeaFair Grand Luxe tour is to exhibit international artists, it is very apparent that the five days the SeaFair Grand Luxe spends docked at various ports is a complete experience that is unrivaled by ordinary land exhibitions. The SeaFair tour has successfully redefined art purchasing into a luxurious experience reserved only for a privileged few.

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