One of the largest and finest cubist collections in the world, painstakingly pieced together by a US billionaire and pledged to the Metropolitan Museum in New York opens to the public on October 20.
Featuring 81 works of art by four artists, the museum says it will be the most important exhibition dedicated to the pioneers of the early 20th century avant-garde art movement in more than 30 years.
It was acquired meticulously over nearly 40 years by billionaire philanthropist Leonard Lauder, 81, son of cosmetics entrepreneur Estee Lauder, and is believed to be worth more than $1 billion.
Perhaps the most important private cubist collection of the four pioneers of Cubism, it will be shown in full in public for the first time at the Met in an exhibition that runs until February 16.
The collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings showcases transformative work by Spanish artists Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris, and France's Georges Braque and Fernand Leger.
The exhibition traces the invention and development of cubism and focuses in particular on 1909-14 when Picasso and Braque, who became inseparable, revolutionized the art world.
Lauder told journalists that he intended from the beginning for his collection to go to a museum. "Every picture that I bought had to meet one criteria 'will it make the cut?'"
Lauder has already given hundreds of works of art to the Whitney Museum of American Art, but he chose the Met, one of the largest and wealthiest museums in the world, for his extraordinary gift.
"Because this is the greatest museum in the world," he explained his choice to reporters. "We want to make the Met and New York the center of the universe which I think it is."
The collection plugs a major gap in the museum's enormous collection of art spanning more than 5,000 years, but which nonetheless lacked this critical development in modernism.
- Catapults the Met into 21st century -
"This will catapult them into the 21th century," said Lauder, describing cubism as "the entrance to the 20th century and everything that followed in art."
He first became interested in cubism decades ago. "It spoke to me in a way that no other period did," he said.
"Every painting has a clue in it, there is something to be learned about the history of the moment."
When he offered the collection to the Met in April 2013 he had 78 cubist paintings, sculptures and drawings. He has since added three more and intends to continue to build on it.
Director of the Met, Thomas Campbell, said he was overjoyed that the collection allowed to the museum to fill "a major gap."
It "places the revelations of cubism in the context of the 5,000 years of visual history -- from African art to Cezanne to the pure abstraction of the 20th century," he said.
One of Lauder's most recent acquisitions is Gris's "Still Life With Checked Tablecloth" which sold at Christie's in London for $56.7 million in February. Among the Picassos are the landmark "Demoiselles d'Avignon," "The Oil Mill," a rare cast of his "Head of a Woman" sculpture, "Playing Cards, Glasses, Bottle of Rhum" and "Woman in a Chemise in an Armchair," one of his most radical and imposing paintings.
The Braque works include "Violin: 'Mozart Kubelick," "Fruit Dish and Glass," which was the first Cubist paper collage ever created, and "Bottle, Glass and Pipe."
From Gris there are "Pears and Grapes on a Table," "Cups, Glasses and Bottle" and six collages from 1914.
Leger is represented with "The Typographer," one of the largest Cubist works, and "The House Under The Trees."
The Met, which welcomes six million visitors a year, has also established a new research center for modern art that will specialize in cubism, funded by Lauder and other donors.