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Cubist collection pledged to Met valued at over $1B

| Thursday, April 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Museum of Art is going cubist in a big way — a billion-dollar way — thanks to cosmetics titan Leonard Lauder.

Lauder, an 80-year-old heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics fortune, pledged a 78-piece art collection, including 33 Picassos, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the museum announced.

“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,” he said in a statement.

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 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 acquired from the Cooper collection in 1986.

“He bought the heart of the Cooper collection, and Douglas had the cream of the crop,” Richardson said.

“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.

The museum will 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.

Picasso's “The Scallop Shell” (1912) and “Woman in an Armchair” (1913) and Braque's “Trees at L'Estaque” (1908) and “The Violin” (1912) are among the highlights of the collection, which will be presented at the museum for the first time in an exhibition scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.

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