|Popular -- not fine -- art|
In 1962, ...Sears set out to end this isolation by merchandising art throughout the country, in a presentation from which pictures could be readily purchased to enrich American homes. Vincent Price was approached to take charge of this program. Price, although well-known by the public as an actor, was also known in the international art world as a collector, lecturer, former gallery-owner and connoisseur who spent a dozen years studying art at Yale, the University of London and other art centers abroad.
Price was given complete authority to acquire any works he considered worthy of selection. He searched throughout the world for fine art to offer through Sears. He bought whole collections and even commissioned artists, including Salvador Dali, to do works specifically for this program.
At first, the idea of a large merchandising organization, such as Sears, maintaining a serious, top-quality art collection met with skepticism. But the public - and the artists themselves - soon learned that Sears would not compromise with good taste or artistic quality.
On October 6, 1962, the first exhibit and sale of "The Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art" took place in a Sears store in Denver, Colo. Original works of the great masters - Rembrandt, Chagall, Picasso, Whistler and more - as well as those of the best contemporary artists at the time were offered for sale in this first exhibit and throughout the program's existence.
Items ranged in selling price from $10 to $3,000. Sears customers could also purchase items on an installment plan for as little as $5 down and $5 a month.
Each work in the program was guaranteed as an original work of quality, just as Sears offered quality guarantees on its lawnmowers and TVs. The program was an instant success. So many pictures were snatched up the first day that an emergency shipment had to be flown in lest the walls be bare the next day.
|P. 370 of Sears Catalog|
The program expanded in the weeks that followed, adding exhibits in 10 additional Sears stores including Hartford, Conn., Harrisburg, Penn., San Diego, Calif., Evansville, Ind., Madison, Wis., and Oklahoma City, Okla. After the successful exhibition and sale of these first 1,500 pieces, the program was expanded nationwide to all of Sears stores throughout the country, bringing original works of fine art to the American public in unprecedented quantity and quality.
Works from the collection were also offered for sale through a special catalog in 1963 and 1964. In 1966, the Sears Vincent Price Gallery of Fine Art was opened in Chicago, Ill., providing a mass audience for talented, but less well-known, young artists. The collection also held temporary exhibits in several hundred communities throughout the country and permanent galleries operated in several cities.
By 1971, when the program ended, more than 50,000 pieces of fine art passed through a constantly changing collection into American homes and offices.