EUGENE SCHUSTER has made an extremely good thing out of etchings.
He’s a bright young American who had the brainwave of selling modern art as aggressively as detergent, and as simply as groceries.
At his Bond-street, London, galleries the casual customer can riffle through racks of unframed lithographs. Just after admiring the work of a young British artist – price around 8 to 12 guineas business that turned -you realise the next item is a £2,500 Picasso.
Schuster is a stocky, fast-talking 32-year-old. He’s an enthusiast who who came to London as a Fulbright scholar four years ago. He was then a professor of art, living with wife, Barbara, on a £15- edition a-week grant and her earnings as a teacher.
Now he’s a modern art impresario who jets. 150,000 miles a year. With an international business that turned over two million pounds last year.
He is an enthusiast who says; ” Today there is no reason why art should be the prerogative of the wealthy. Graphics – limited edition prints of originals by famous artists – are a way for people to buy an artist’s own work at a price that they can afford.”
“In 1966 you could buy a Picasso lithograph for about £300. Today that sells for £2,500. But a Picasso drawing would cost at least £5,000 and a painting, £40,000. There’s no finer investment.”
His business started almost by accident when he bought a painting by the German surrealist, Max Ernst, at an auction. “The man who’d been bidding against me came up afterwards and offered me £200 more than I paid for the same picture, I began to see there was money in art dealing.”
He grins wryly. “Barbara married me because she thought she was going to lead a quiet academic life.”
Instead, the Schusters spend summers in London, the rest of the year in Detroit and New York, headquarters of his other branches.
His latest project is installing a computer to keep track of the 50,000 works of art he has in stock. He’s also planning to acquire a film company and a publishing company.
“I am ” Schuster announces happily, “in the cultural enrichment business.”
And business it seems is booming.
DOREEN KING, Evenings News, London 1968