EUGENE SCHUSTER: london arts gallery 1968

Mr Schuster Sells His Etchings Just Like Soap Powder

EUGENE SCHUSTER has made an extremely good thing out of etchings.

DOREEN KING, Evening News, London 1968

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.  

Pablo Picasso Tête de femme, 1962 Linocut in colors, on Arches paper
Pablo Picasso Tête de femme, 1962 Linocut in colors, on Arches paper

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.

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