The London Arts Gallery came to the notice of an international public when in 1970, its owner Eugene Schuster was charged with corrupting morals when he exhibited erotic artwork by John Lennon of himself and his wife Yoko Ono in various stages of lovemaking.

The London Arts Gallery, located in an upscale district on New Bond Street was the first gallery to exhibit John Lennon’s artwork.

The gallery was known for original fine print works by Old Masters like Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt and modern artists such as Picasso, Braque and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The gallery was also an important and respected showplace for many contemporary Pop artists of the time including Julian Travelyan, Philip Sutton, Norman Ackroyd, Harvey Daniels, Trevor Allen, and Frank Martin. 

The Bag One lithos were hand signed and numbered by John Lennon.  Bag One included five prints that were erotic or offensive depending on whom you asked.

In January 1970 there was a gallery opening at the London Arts Gallery in London. The Metropolitan Police raided the show and confiscated the art from the walls. 

There was as court trial against the  gallery owner.  There was controversy over the censorship.  Ultimately the show went on.

Two weeks later London Arts Gallery Detroit, located in the historic Fisher Building was the first U.S. exhibition of the prints.  

At the opening of the London exhibition eight of the fourteen lithographs were confiscated by the Vice Squad of Scotland Yard on the grounds of indecency.

Play Video

"The police came with a search and seizure warrant.  They also took away other materials including press releases. I refused to give them the names of people who had already bought sets of the prints."
Eugene Schuster
London Arts Gallery Director
“I’m just amazed and I find it rather humorous. It seems to me if the police wanted to seize anything they’d go down to Soho seize smut, seize blue movies. If they can let (the controversial film) I Am Curious pass how can they object to this?"

"It appears they seized the art mainly because John Lennon did it.” 
Eugene Schuster
London Arts Gallery Director


A London Arts Gallery press release from the time commented:

“Lennon’s sex life in the medium of lithography is a poignant comment on a modern society. In the last year Lennon has repeatedly attempted to identify himself as an artist beyond Pop music. It has brought ridicule on him and his efforts have been scorned.”

“The history of lithography has seen a change of emphasis from content to technique and Lennon has taken advantage of this movement to expose a society by exposing his own private life to encourage a more introspective commitment to content by today’s artists who can be so timid. In a society where movement and social change play such an important part, the artist’s need to experiment is not new. Warhol and Rauschenberg have created a pattern. John Lennon is developing this tradition and although he may not be making many friends, he has committed himself to a particular cultural leadership which has always been the position of the artist.”

The gallery owner Eugene Schuster, an American citizen was tried in the Queen’s Marlborough Street Court.  Witnesses were called on both sides. At one point prints by Pablo Picasso were brought before the court for comparison.  A few observers noted that erotic works by Rembrandt and Fragonard are in on display in many high profile collections including those of H.R.H. The Queen.  

The charge of obscenity was changed to disturbing the pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk. The Prosecution shifted focused from artistic freedom to the regulations of the street and storefront.

Following a three day court trial, the case was dismissed and the artwork returned.  

The critics and public remained divided on both the subject of obscenity in art and the artistic merit of John Lennon’s lithographs. 

"Personally I think some of the things are good, some of them not so good and some of them quite bad. Nonetheless... Lennon is an artist and I want to encourage him to do more art... Good or bad that’s up to the critics. It’s not for the police to say.
Eugene Schuster
London Arts Gallery Director
“Many toilet walls depict works of similar merit. It is perhaps charitable to suggest that they are the work of a sick mind.”
Detective Luff Scotland Yard
Detective Fredric Luff
Scotland Yard's 'Dirty Squad"
“When I saw the first picture on the far wall I was stunned I couldn’t believe what i was looking at I went on and looked at two or three on the wall, I went to the other wall and suddenly I felt I couldn’t stay in the gallery any longer I went over to my husband who hadn’t left the first picture I took him by the arm and I said I can’t stay in here I’ll go on up the road you can follow me he turned looked at me and said 'You’re red in the face, your scarlet.' as I spoke to him I realized that I was red with embarrassment.” 
Mrs. Nanci Creer
Witness for the Prosecution
"I am afraid I cannot help further in the matter of John Lennon’s lithographs which have been seized by the police. None of my staff here is prepared to help on such terms, or indeed any other, I think; and I cannot understand why you should demur at going to an eminent art critic whose job it is to make assessments of this kind. Would you have similarly demurred to John Ruskin or to Roger Fry or Clive Bell – always supposing that you have heard of these gentlemen?
Sir Robin Darwin
rector of the Royal College of Art
"Most of the art establishment thought that Lennon was trading on his reputation as a pop star they were denounced as as poor drawings, and in actual fact they’re not. They’re actually by today’s standards actually rather accomplished drawings. You can tell he’s trying to be amusing and that’s a difficult skill to to master, of course."
David Lee

Ultimately, the gallery owner was  cleared of all charges. 

"I’m not trying to show erotica I’m trying to show Art."
Eugene Schuster
Gallery Owner

The Metropolitan Police later said that the gallery could reopen the exhibition of the remaining lithographs “If it wished to do so.”

The prints returned to the gallery where a second exhibit was greeted with even more public enthusiasm.

A few weeks later the first U.S. exhibition was held at London Arts Gallery, Detroit, Michigan amidst scrutiny and much anticipation.

"I think The failure of that trial is incredibly important because it really marks the point at which youth culture has won and the establishment has lost. They tried very hard to victimize many of the more important major characters of the sixties; Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were others, and they failed in all cases.”
David Lee

L.A.G. Timeline

The London Arts Group incorporates many fields of artistic activity. Dealers in the paintings and sculpture of internationally known artists, the London Arts Group is also one of the largest distributors of original prints in the world, their prints ranging from 15th-century Old Master examples to selections of 19th and

Read More »
bag one London Arts gallery Detroit 1970 Fisher building

John Lennon Detroit Art Show

Beatle Art Display Set For Detroit Curiosity seeking crowds are not what the London Art Gallery hopes to attract with its showing of a collection of etchings by Beatle John Lennon, according to Eugene Schuster, head of London Arts, Inc. “But when art and sex are put together, it’s hard

Read More »

WCM Series Pitch Deck

Related posts: When Clouds Meet – Audiobook London Arts Gallery Bag One John Lennon Controversy Police Raid Obscenity Trial L.A.G. Timeline Yoko Ono & John Lennon Artists Activists

Read More »

When Clouds Meet – Audiobook

‘When Clouds Meet’ – a story of the controversy surrounding John Lennon’s erotic lithographs as seen through the lens of Barbara and Eugene as they navigate their way through the fast changing world of 1960s London.’

Read More »

Dealer’s wife is surprised by seizure of Beatle’s Art

Is ”John Lennon’s Bag” pornography or art?  Mrs. Eugene Schuster wife of a Detroit art dealer, interviewed in her Detroit home believes the answer is Art. But a British magistrate will have the final say this month. “John Lennon‘s Bag“ is the title of 14 lithographs depicting the Beatles, love

Read More »
John and Yoko Nude 2 virgins 1968

reborn artist

Related posts: Yoko Ono & John Lennon Artists Activists London Arts Gallery Bag One John Lennon Controversy Police Raid Obscenity Trial Come Together: John Lennon’s illegal art L.A.G. Timeline

Read More »
Scroll to Top