Metropolitan Museum Announces Gift of Major Cubist Collection from Leonard A. Lauder and Creation of New Research Center for Modern Art
Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, announced today 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.
Mr. Campbell concurrently announced that, in coordination with the gift, the Metropolitan 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 Mr. Lauder.
The Leonard A. Lauder Collection, distinguished by its quality, focus, and depth, includes 33 works by Picasso, 17 by Braque, 14 by Gris, and 14 by Léger. It is unsurpassed in the number of masterpieces and iconic works critical to the development of Cubism. Among the highlights of the collection are: Picasso’s 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); 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. The Center will bring together renowned scholars, fellows, and curators for focused inquiry within the rich global context of the Metropolitan’s collection.
Gift of Major Cubist Collection from Leonard A. Lauder
“Leonard's gift is truly transformational for the Metropolitan Museum,” stated Mr. 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 20th century and the foundation for an artistic dialogue that continues today. This is an extraordinary gift to our Museum and our City."
Mr. Lauder commented: “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 20th-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 to open in fall 2014. The exhibition will be co-curated by Emily Braun, Distinguished Professor, Hunter College, and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, who has served as curator of the Lauder Collection for 26 years; and Rebecca Rabinow, Curator in the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art.
The Leonard A. Lauder Collection: Overview
The Lauder Collection is one of the most significant groups of Cubist art ever assembled. Over the past 37 years, Mr. Lauder has selectively acquired the best and most important works of the four preeminent Cubist painters–Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Gris. He made his first two Cubist acquisitions in 1976 and his most recent, a Juan Gris collage, in March 2013. Mr. Lauder will continue to look for opportunities to add Cubist works to the Collection he has committed to the Met.
Cubism was the most influential art movement of the 20th century: it radically destroyed traditional illusionism in painting, revolutionized the way we see the world (as Juan Gris said), and paved the way for the pure abstraction that dominated Western art for the next 50 years. Led by Picasso and Braque, the Cubists dismantled traditional perspective and modeling in the round in order to emphasize the twodimensional picture plane. Cubist collage introduced fragments of mass-produced popular culture into pictures, thereby changing the very definition of art.
Gift of Major Cubist Collection from Leonard A. Lauder
More than half of the Lauder Collection focuses on the six-year period, 1909-14, during which Braque and Picasso—the two founders of the Cubist movement—closely collaborated. Their partnership began in earnest in the fall of 1908, when the visionary dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler exhibited Braque’s most recent paintings in his Paris gallery. Henri Matisse is known to have disparaged Braque’s pictures as “painting made of small cubes;” the term Cubism first appeared in print in Louis Vauxcelles’s review of the Kahnweiler exhibition. The Lauder Collection includes two landscapes from this historic show: Terrace at the Hotel Mistral, l’Estaque (1907), which marks Braque’s transition from Fauvism to Cubism, and the iconic Trees at L’Estaque (1908), which inaugurates Cubism.
By 1909 Braque and Picasso were inseparable. As Picasso later recounted, “Almost every evening, either I went to Braque’s studio or he came to mine. Each of us HAD tosee what the other had done during the day. We criticized each other’s work. A canvas wasn’t finished until both of us felt it was.” A pair of identically sized paintings from 1911 the Lauder Collection –Braque’s Bottle and Clarinet and Picasso’s Pedestal Table with Wine Glasses, Cup, and Mandolin—exemplify a pivotal moment in the history of Cubism when the two artists began to picture objects from different points of view in an increasingly shallow space. Only a few clues were retained to help viewers decode the picture, the profile of an instrument or the tassel of a curtain. As the works hovered on the brink of illegibility, Braque and Picasso began to introduce “certainties,” as Braque called them: painted letters and words and, soon after, actual pieces of rope, newspaper, sheet music, and brand labels. They inspired other artists to incorporate all kinds of unorthodox materials into works of art.
The Lauder Collection contains such landmark paintings as Picasso’s landscape The Oil Mill (1909), which was one of the first Cubist pictures reproduced in Italy. After seeing it in the December 1911 issue of the Florentine journal La Voce, the Italian Futurists were inspired to modernize their style and engage in a rivalry with their French peers. Picasso’s Still Life with Fan (L’Indépendant) (1911), in the Lauder Collection, is one of the first works in which he experimented with painted typography, in this case the gothic type masthead of L’Indépendant, the local newspaper of Céret in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Braque’s Fruit Dish and Glass (1912), the very first Cubist papier collé (paper collage) ever created, is also in the Lauder Collection. Collages were a revolutionary Cubist art form in which ready-made objects were incorporated into fine art. 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 stilllife 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.” Braque and Picasso shared an interest in aviation, which extended to Braque’s nickname, “Wilb[o]urg” (after Wilbur Wright). The most famous example of their aviation puns is Picasso’s The Scallop Shell (“Notre avenir est dans l’air”) (1912). This oval-shaped painting is simultaneously a representation of a tabletop and a blatantly flat canvas. The still-life elements of the work include a trompe l’oeil rendering of a pamphlet that had been issued by the French government in February 1912 to raise public support for military aviation. Picasso included it as a witty reference to his and Braque’s daring, groundbreaking Cubist enterprise.