NEW YORK CITY — The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced last week that Leonard A. Lauder has pledged to give the museum his collection of 78 works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, and Fernand Léger, which stands as one of the foremost collections of Cubism in the world. In making his gift, Lauder expressed his desire to make a “transformative” gift and one that would be a gift to the people of New York.
Museum Director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell concurrently announced that, in coordination with the gift, the museum is establishing a new research center for Modern art at the Metropolitan, supported by a $22 million endowment funded by grants from museum trustees and supporters, including Lauder.
The Leonard A. Lauder Collection includes 33 works by Picasso, 17 by Braque, 14 by Gris and 14 by Léger. It is noted for its number of masterpieces and iconic works critical to the development of Cubism. Among the Picasso works are “The Scallop Shell (Notre avenir est dans l’air),” 1912, “Woman in an Armchair (Eva),” 1913, and “Still Life with Cards, Glasses and Bottle of Rum: Vive la France,” 1914; partially reworked 1915.
Other standouts include Braque’s “Trees at L’Estaque,” 1908, and “The Violin (Mozart/Kubelick),” 1912; Léger’s “Houses under the Trees,” 1913, and “Composition (The Typographer),” 1917–18; and Gris’s “Portrait of the Artist’s Mother,” 1912, and “Figure Seated in a Café (Man at a Table),” 1914.
The Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art will be the first such center dedicated exclusively to Modern art within an encyclopedic museum. It will serve as a leading center for scholarship on Cubism and Modern art, distinguished by its intellectual rigor and range, and its resources available for study.
“Leonard’s gift is truly transformational for the Metropolitan Museum,” said Campbell in making the announcement. “Although the Met is unique in its ability to exhibit over 5,000 years of art history, we have long lacked this critical dimension in the story of Modernism. Now, Cubism will be represented with some of its greatest masterpieces, demonstrating both its role as the groundbreaking movement of the Twentieth Century and the foundation for an artistic dialogue that continues today. This is an extraordinary gift to our museum and our city.”
Lauder said, “This is a gift to the people who live and work in New York and those from around the world who come to visit our great arts institutions. The arts are a cornerstone of the cultural, educational and economic vitality of the City. I selected the Met as the way to share this collection because I feel that it’s essential that Cubism — and the art that follows it, for that matter — be seen and studied within the collections of one of the greatest encyclopedic museums in the world. The Met’s collection of Modernism, together with those of MoMA, the Guggenheim and the Whitney, reinforce the city’s standing as the center for Twentieth Century art and fuel New York’s ongoing role as the art capital of the world.”
The Lauder collection will be presented for the first time at the Metropolitan Museum in an exhibition scheduled for fall 2014.
Over the past 37 years, Lauder has selectively acquired the best and most important works of the four preeminent Cubist painters — Picasso, Braque, Léger and Gris. More than half of the collection focuses on the six-year period, 1909–14, during which Braque and Picasso closely collaborated.
This donation to the Met extends Lauder’s philanthropic vision of making gifts to museums that strategically build their collections. He has long served as a trustee, president and chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art, to which he has donated hundreds of works of art, and in 2008, he contributed $131 million to the Whitney’s endowment.
He has long been involved with the Metropolitan Museum and has served as a member of its Visiting Committees for Drawings & Prints and Modern & Contemporary Art since the 1980s. In 1984 he gave his collection of American art posters of the 1890s to the Met, which presented them in an exhibition in 1987 accompanied by a major catalog that continues to be the standard reference in the field. Since that time, Lauder has continued to acquire works for the collection.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Avenue. For information, www.metmuseum.org or 212-570-3951.