Published in MSU Alumni Magazine, Spring 2008 | By ROBERT BAO
The selling of art is an art itself, and no entity in the nation sells more original art of all kinds than the Park West Gallery® in Southfield, the largest independently-owned art gallery in the world. With an affiliate location in Miami, which supplies art auctions in cruises, Park West® sells more than 300,000 pieces of art every year while generating some $450 million in annual revenue. Leave it to a rocket scientist to engineer this level of success.
Albert Scaglione, M.S. ’63, Ph.D. ’70, Park West’s founder (1969) and CEO, whose graduate degrees are in magneto hydrodynamics and who once worked on solving NASA’s heat shielding problems and taught at Wayne State University, has become the world’s largest dealer in original art. “Yes, it’s a change, but the technical skill I developed at MSU are translatable to many, many fields.”
A native of Newark, NJ, he came to MSU in the 1960s — “I had a seat on the 50-yard-line in the 10-10 tie game against Notre Dame,” he recalls — and loved it. “MSU had a great math program and a great Merit Scholar program,” he says. “It was a great experience. I liked it so much I never left Michigan.” But as funding for the space program declined, Albert decided to change tacks. “I had taken some art classes at MSU and really liked them,” he recalls, adding he also enjoyed having worked in an art gallery as a teen. So, just like that, he founded Park West®.
Albert says he approached art the same way he approached engineering, and growth has been meteoric. Today, he has 1,000 full-time employees and a stable of artists including Peter Max, Yaacov Agam, Itzchak Tarkay, Igor Medvedev, and Linda Le Kinff, and such masters as M.C. Escher and even Dali.
“My work (in aeronautics) was a joy, but what I do now is an even greater joy,” he says. “We have 1.2 million clients in more than 60 countries worldwide. We get feedback all the time. We get an opportunity to teach, teach and teach.”