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In pictures

Apollo Advent Calendar

24 December 2013

Merry Christmas from Apollo. We’ve been celebrating some of the greatest acquisitions, gifts and bequests of 2013 throughout Advent, and are delighted to finish with the Apollo Awards Acquisition of the Year

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The Leonard A. Lauder Collection of 78 Cubist artworks by Picasso, Braque, Gris and Léger
Pictured: Bouteille de rhum (Bottle of Rum), spring 1914
Georges Braque (1882–1963)
Oil on canvas, 46×55cm
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris
Promised gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection

Few movements have had as great an impact on modern art as Cubism. Leonard A. Lauder’s promised gift of 78 paintings, drawings and sculptures by Picasso, Braque, Gris and Léger to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is a monumental offering, and has prompted the foundation of a new research centre that will deliver fresh insights into the movement’s history. The collection is valued at $1 billion, and the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art is made possible by a $22m endowment funded by grants from museum trustees and supporters, Lauder among them.

Lauder, the chairman emeritus of the Estée Lauder Companies, bought his first two Cubist paintings in 1976 and continues to selectively acquire new items. The majority date from 1909–14, when Picasso and Braque shared a collaborative working relationship. Key pieces include Braque’s Trees at L’Estaque’ of 1908, in which the artist moves away from Cézanne-esque landscapes, and Picasso’s erotically charged portrait of his mistress, Eva Gouel. Discussed by André Breton in his landmark text Surrealism and Painting (1928), Woman in an Armchair (Eva), which dates from 1913, exemplifies Cubism’s fragmented perspective and collage aesthetic. The pledge also includes Gris’ Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1912), among his most celebrated paintings, and Léger’s The Smoker (1914), with its characteristic, colourful forms that evoke a mechanised modernity.

Picasso is represented by 33 works; Braque by 17, and Gris and Léger by 14 each. That so many iconic works should be in the same private collection is remarkable. The group is scheduled for exhibition next autumn. On announcing the gift, Lauder stated: ‘I feel that it’s essential that Cubism…be seen and studied within the collection of one of the greatest encyclopedic museum in the world.’ His bequest will significantly extend the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s already impressive modern holdings.