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.
Mr. Schuster accepted the challenge of the expansion of Pop to the Fine Art field with delight and the seriousness of his professorial background. Lennon’s sex life in the medium of lithography is a poignant comment on a modern society.
"It appears they seized the art mainly because John Lennon did it.”
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.
Ultimately, the gallery owner was cleared of all charges.
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.
Press Release Before the Show
The London Arts Group, with fine arts galleries in London, New York, and Detroit, will stage the world premiere of Beatle John Lennon’s first portfolio of original lithographs on Wednesday, January 14, at the London Arts Gallery, 22 New Bond Street, London. The exhibition will continue through Saturday, January 31.
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Erotic Lennon ‘disgusting’ – The Evening Standard
Detectives damningly dismissed John Lennon’s erotic drawings as the product of a sick mind. And members of the public who visited the London gallery exhibiting them in January 1970 denounced them as ‘ disgusting and repulsive’. The level of outrage provoked by the Beatle’s ‘artwork’ is revealed in official files
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