Picasso Biographer Prices Lauder Met Gift Over $1 Billion

Billionaire cosmetics magnate Leonard A. Lauder pledged a 78-piece art collection, including 33 Picassos, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the museum announced yesterday.

Lauder’s Cubist collection, which includes 17 works by Georges Braque, 14 by Juan Gris and 14 by Fernand Leger, is one of the largest gifts in the museum’s history. It is valued at $1 billion, according to the New York Times, which did not say how it arrived at the figure. The museum’s statement didn’t disclose the value of the gift.

“I think it’s worth more than that,” said John Richardson, Picasso’s leading biographer, who curated four major exhibitions about the artist at Gagosian Gallery in New York and London. “I know the market.”

Richardson was also a partner of collector Douglas Cooper, who began buying Cubism around 1932, amassing one of the most significant troves by Picasso, Braque, Gris and Leger. Lauder’s gift to the Met includes 5 paintings and 11 drawings that he acquired from the Cooper collection in 1986.

“He bought the heart of the Cooper collection and Douglas had the cream of the crop,” said Richardson. “I lived with this art for 12 years.”

“Leonard’s gift is truly transformational for the Metropolitan Museum,” Thomas P. Campbell, the museum’s director and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “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.”

Research Center

The museum will also establish the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, supported by a $22 million endowment funded by grants from its trustees and supporters, including Lauder. It will promote scholarship on Cubism and modern art.

Lauder, former CEO and chairman of Estee Lauder, has an estimated net worth of $8.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. “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,” he said in the press release.

The group will go on display in the last quarter of 2014.

Muse highlights include Rich Jaroslovsky on technology, Patrick Cole on philanthropy.

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