|When it comes to art, the Price is right|
In 1962, George Struthers, vice-president in charge of merchandise at Sears, approached Vincent Price with an invitation to become the buyer for a new fine arts department Sears was launching. It was well-known at the time that Price was an avid art collector. In 1957, he and his wife Mary Grant donated ninety pieces from their private collection to establish the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College, which is still in existence today.
Price always liked the idea of bringing the fine arts to the broad American public and was excited with being presented the opportunity to do it with one of the largest department chains in the States.
He was asked simply to make a collection that would appeal to all kinds of people; people who had never seen art before, and to connoisseurs who were aware of great art. Price was given carte blanche to purchase the fine art needed for the collection and each and every piece Sears would back up with their famous money-back guarantee.
"I feel that an awful number of people suffer under two misapprehensions about art. Number One is that it is not available to them, and Number Two, that it may cost too much money....[Therefore my goal] was to correct these misapprehensions and to tell people that art is not for one class of people; economic class or educated class, but art belongs to everyone"
Vincent PriceWithin three months, Price collected nearly 2000 works of art - paintings, etchings, drawings, prints, etc. The initial exhibit included original works from the great masters - Rembrandt, Chagall, Picasso, Dali, Whistler and more - as well as some of the best contemporary artists at the time. The works ranged in price from $10 to $3000, plus Sears customers could purchase items on an installment plan basis for as little as $5 down and $5 a month.
The Vincent Price Art Collection was an instant success and so many pictures were snatched up the first day of its exhibit that an additional shipment had to be flown in lest the walls become bare the next day. The fine art collection was then offered at ten additional Sears stores before expanding nationwide to all of the stores. By the late 1960s, the price of the quality of the art that Price was willing to put his name behind had inflated beyond the range of Sears shoppers and in 1971 the program ended. Within those nine years, over 50,000 pieces of art were passed into American homes and offices.
In addition to providing affordable fine art for its customers, the Sears Vincent Price Gallery of Fine Art opened its doors in Chicago in 1966 to provide an audience for less well-known young artists.
In this promotional film Sears released for its salesmen, Vincent Price explains how he was invited to participate in this project and offers a brief tour of some of the paintings that will be available in the collection.