Albert Scaglione, who after earning a mechanical engineering degree from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) changed careers and became one of the nation’s most prominent art dealers, was honored last night by NJIT for his generous donations to the university.
Scaglione, president of the Park West Gallery, in Southfield, Michigan, was honored for donating more than 400 pieces of art to NJIT. His donated portfolio of serigraphs and lithographs, some by well-known artists, is worth more than $500,000. The artwork is on display in NJIT’s halls, offices and public spaces.
Scaglione, who earned his degree in 1962 from the Newark College of Engineering at NJIT, was the keynote speaker during an on-campus dinner that recognized NJIT’s most generous donors.
“I’m very grateful to NJIT for the amazing training I received here when I was an undergraduate,” said Scaglione. “In the first class I had at NJIT,” Scaglione recalled, “my professor wrote, ‘Science’ on the blackboard. He then asked the class, ‘Do any of you know what engineering is?’ There was a pause, and with his chalk the professor drew two vertical lines through the S in Science, turning it into the money sign: $. ‘That is what engineering is,’” Scaglione recalled the professor saying. “‘It’s not just theory and equations; it’s an applied science that solves problems, creates products and makes money.’ I’ve never forgotten his words, his emphasis on problem solving as well as the sound education I received at NJIT.”
Scaglione, 66, grew up and lived in Nutley while he attended NJIT; he lives now in Farmington Hills, Michigan, close to the Park West Gallery, which conducts art auctions in America and Canada as well as aboard cruise ships throughout the world.
How did an engineer wind up working successfully in the art world? After NJIT, Scaglione got his doctorate in magneto-hydrodynamic engineering from Michigan State University. In 1967, he began his career by teaching engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit. He also did aeronautical research for NASA – research he hoped would aid interplanetary travel and supersonic transport. But when the government cut the NASA programs and instead concentrated on developing weapons-delivery systems, Scaglione grew disillusioned.
“In 1969, I saw the specter of nuclear war haunting my work,” he said. “I didn’t want my education to be used for that. I decided I’d rather sell art.” He entered the art world with no more experience than a summer job working in an art gallery owned by his relatives. His finances amounted to a $10,000 mortgage on his house. At the suggestion of a friend, he entered the art auction business – a move that would put him on the road to fame. He soon met pop artist Peter Max and became one of his art dealers. He later met and became an art dealer for the Israeli painter Yacov Agam, the so-called father of the kinetic art movement. His further success came in the 1970’s, when, working with art dealers in Europe, he introduced the work of artists such as Marc Chagall, Joan Miro and Maurits Escher to a broader section of the American public.
Today, Scaglione sells more than 200,000 pieces of art a year from his gallery, cruise ships and auctions, generating more than $100 million in annual sales. The works range from fine art paintings and original prints to collectible animation cells and sports memorabilia.
He also has a passion for collecting art. It was only natural then, that when it came time for him to contribute to NJIT – his gift would come in the form of art.
“I’ve collected so much art over the years that I can’t look at it all and I’m happy to give a collection to NJIT,” said Scaglione. “The art in the donated collection is by fine artists who are sought after by collectors. The art is of high quality and NJIT is a high-level university so it’s a perfect fit. The newly revamped NJIT campus is so beautiful why not have beautiful art on the wall? This is my way of saying thanks to NJIT.”