Central Art Supply is a giant warehouse with over 2,500 square feet of floor space on five floors, half of which are filled with an almost unimaginable array of paper varieties. CAS first opened its doors in 1905 by Benjamin Steinberg, the present owner’s grandfather. It has been in the same locale on Third Avenue near 11th Street on the Lower East Side ever since, with only brief forays right next door during the 1930s.
The amazing choices of paper one can acquire here boggles the mind, including papers specially designed for printmaking, watercolor, collage, bookbinding and more. Lace patterns and tones are intended for walls or packages. There are hand-made papers and milled papers from 100 year-old mills. Prices vary from as little as 60 cents for one sheet to several hundred dollars. According to David Aldera the store’s manager, there are close to 6,000 actual paper varieties available in the store.
Today’s owner, Steven Steinberg, age 74 is the grandson of the founder. He explains that many well-known artists have shopped for their art supplies in Central. These include such luminaries as James Rosenquist, Eric Fischl, Jamie Wyeth and David Hockney. “We don’t see Hockney so much, now that he’s back in England” Mr. Steinberg said.
Mr. Aldera has been managing the store for 30 years, since he was 26 years old. His specialty has evolved into getting stocks of paper that have already been discontinued.
“We carry a paper handmade by an elderly man in India – he’s the equivalent of a national treasure, really” Mr. Aldera said. “He eventually decided he was retiring and would make no more. He had no one to step in and carry on the tradition. We managed to convince him to create one more shipment.”
The next time you need some paper, think of Central Art Supply. It seems a good bet they will have exactly what you need.