Jewish-American Estee Lauder Heir Donates $1 Billion in Art to the Met

Leonard Lauder's gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art includes 78 works by Cubism masters; Met calls the collection 'transformational,' plans to put it on display in fall of 2014.

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Cosmetics heir Leonard Lauder has donated a collection of Cubist works, including paintings by Picasso, to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum called it "truly transformational" to its collection.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced the $1 billion gift late on Tuesday, which it plans to put on display for public viewing in the fall 2014.

Included in Lauder's "extraordinary" donation to the Met were 78 works by Cubism's four preeminent masters: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris and Fernand Leger.

"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," the Met said in a statement.

"[Lauder's collection is] one of the most significant groups of Cubist art ever assembled."

The Met's new Cubism exhibition will feature Picasso's "Oil Mill" (1909), "Woman in an Armchair" (1913); Braque's "Trees at L'Estaque" (1908), "The Violin" (1912); Leger's "Houses under the Trees" (1913); and Gris' "Portrait of the Artist's Mother" (1912).

In addition to the expansion of its Cubism collection, the Met said it will open a new research center for modern art with the support of a $22 million endowment from donors, including Lauder.

The heir to the Estee Lauder fortune donated the collection for the benefit of the public and the study of art.

"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," he was quoted as saying in the Met's statement.

His Cubism collection - which he assembled over nearly four decades - represented about 13.5 percent of his total net worth of $8.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Leonard Lauder is the older brother of prominent Jewish-American businessman and philanthropist Ron Lauder.

The exterior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in March, 2013. Credit: AP
Leonard Lauder attends the 2009 Whitney Museum of American Art gala and studio party in New York.Credit: AP
Pablo Picasso's 1913 "Nude Woman in an Armchair (Eva)," one of the paintings donated to the Met by Lauder. Credit: AP
Fernand Lיger's 1914 "Le fumeur (The Smoker)," one of the paintings Lauder has donated to the museum.Credit: AP