Cubism: The Leonard A Lauder Collection now on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York is considered one of the most important assemblages of Cubist art in the world.
The collection consists of 81 paintings, drawings, collages, works on paper and a few sculptures by Cubism’s four giants: Georges Braque (1882-1963), Juan Gris (1887-1927), Fernand Léger (1881-1965) and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Most of the work dates from 1907 to 1918, and the Met has posted images of each of the pieces here. The trove of signature works is valued at more than $1 billion.
New York Times art writer, Roberta Smith states in her comprehensive review that “the work outlines the genesis of the modernist movement that set the stage for almost all others.” Accompanying her article is a 13-image slide show of the work in place.
The collection raises the Met’s profile as an institution for modern and contemporary art considerably, since its holdings in that area were very limited before. Thomas Campbell, the museum’s director said that “In one fell swoop this puts the Met at the forefront of early-20th-century art. It is an unreproducible collection, something museum directors only dream about.”
Leonard A. Lauder, philanthropist and chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder, amassed the collection over a period of 40 years. The Met has posted a video in which Lauder talks about his lifelong interest in collecting, from picture postcards and posters to Cubist works of art. He said that when he discovered Cubism, “I found something I was really able to relate to, and I liked the concept of looking in depth at a moment in time.”
Lauder bought his first piece of Cubist art in 1976: a Léger. In her review of the exhibition, New York Times art writer Carol Vogel reports: Mr. Lauder said that “nobody wanted” Cubist art for the first 20 years he collected it, so it was still affordable. And early on, he knew that one day he would donate the collection to a museum. He said, “Before buying something, the question I always ask myself is this: If it were going to a museum, would it make the cut? If the answer is yes, then that’s what I buy.” The collection he put together now rivals that of major museums worldwide.
The Lauder Collection exhibition continues through February 16, 2015. The Met is open 7 days a week: Sun-Thurs, 10-5:30, Fri-Sat: 10-9 & closed on major holidays. If you go, get there early — best, right when it opens — because the exhibition gets crowded very quickly. 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street) New York, NY 10028 Phone: 212-535-7710