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The Clever Business Strategy Behind Marc Newson’s $1.5 Million Speedboat

Aquariva will be sold in limited edition next week.

A few months back, we told you about mega-star designer Marc Newson‘s foray into the cashed-up world of luxury speedboats. As of next week, the vessels are officially on sale, in limited edition, through the Gagosian Gallery and just in time for… the end of summer?

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OK, so the timing might be off, but everything else about the launch is studiously on point. The boats solve a niggling problem: The Gagosian Gallery — run by Larry Gagosian, the art world’s very own Cornelius Vanderbilt — likes money. But how do you make money in a recession when no one wants to buy angsty 30-something scribbles and goat’s heads by passe YBAs? You sell playthings for the galactically rich. Natch.

A boat is a pretty good place to start. It’s one of the great symbols of the leisure class, alongside private jets and lighting cigars with cash. Then you trot out a famous designer and make sure he whips up something hot. Here, Newson delivers. Aquariva, as the boat’s called, has a cool, sexy, retro vibe, with a faux mahogany deck and turquoise upholstery that tap into that ?60s aesthetic everyone thinks’ll turn him into the next Don Draper.

Then you remind prospective clients just how famous and talented your designer is. So Gagosian Gallery will premiere Aquariva next Tuesday alongside an exhibit about Newson’s transportation design, which’ll include everything from a Biomega bike to a prototype plane for space tourists. None of these items will be for sale, as best we can tell — they’ll just be there to help sell the boats. Think of them as super-sized marketing brochures. Right down the street from $500,000 paintings.

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Then you manufacture just a few editions (22), so your buyers feel reaaaaaaal special — and maybe special enough to swallow the inevitable price premium that comes with buying from a big-time New York gallery and a big-time international designer. And that, ladies and gents, is how you convince your fat-pocketed friends to spend $1.5 million on a speedboat — in September. A case study in the warped psychology of conspicuous consumption? Maybe. It’s also brilliant salesmanship, and the Gagosian Gallery is staffed by some of the slickest salespeople in the world.

[Images courtesy of the Gagosian Gallery]

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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