The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that Leonard A. Lauder has made a major donation of Cubist art that will transform New York’s largest museum into a major center for Cubist art. The pledged gift is comprised of 78 works, including 33 works by Pablo Picasso, 17 by Georges Braque, 14 by Juan Gris, and 14 by Fernand Léger. As part of the donation, the Metropolitan Museum will create the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, which will serve as a leading center for scholarship on Cubism and modern art. According to the New York Times, the Lauder Center “will be supported by a $22 million endowment that he has helped finance along with museum trustees and supporters.” The Center promises to attract leading scholars and curators in the field, and transform the institution into a player in a field where its collections have long been sparse. The Metropolitan Museum only received its first Cubist painting in 1996.
“Leonard’s gift is truly transformational for the Metropolitan Museum,” Metropolitan Director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell said in his 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 20th century and the foundation for an artistic dialogue that continues today. This is an extraordinary gift to our Museum and our City.”
Lauder has been collecting Cubist art since 1976, and half of his collection focuses on the years 1909–14, the peak of the Cubist movement. Among the treasures in the Lauder collection is Braque’s “Fruit Dish and Glass” (1912), which is the very first Cubist paper collage — known in French as papier collé — ever created. The Museum explained:
In the summer of 1912, while vacationing with Picasso in the south of France, Braque saw imitation wood-grain wallpaper in a store window. He waited until Picasso left town before buying the faux bois paper and pasting it into a still-life composition. Braque’s decision to use mechanically printed, illusionistic wallpaper to represent the texture and color of a wooden table marked a turning point in Cubism. Braque later recounted, “After having made the papier collé [“Fruit Dish and Glass”], I felt a great shock, and it was an even greater shock for Picasso when I showed it to him.”
The Lauder Collection, which the New York Times estimated is worth over $1 billion, will be presented to the public for the first time at the Metropolitan Museum in an exhibition scheduled to open in fall 2014.
The New York Times has an extensive multimedia feature about the donation, which features write ups about individual works accompanied by audio files.