Brotherly love never looked classier.
Lauding the work of two Jewish brothers named Ronald and Leonard Lauder is simply a matter of extolling and witnessing their generosity first hand. Their mother was of course cosmetics entrepreneur Estee Lauder. They grew up in a brotherly camaraderie of expanding wealth and art. “I was a 6 year old collecting Art Deco postcards,” Leonard has said. Not to be outdone, his 13 year old brother Ronald, brought his first painting (by artist Egon Schiele) with his Bar Mitzvah money. So where do two brothers go from there? Anywhere they want.
From now through next February 16th, New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is proudly showcasing a promised gift from Leonard to the Met, simply titled “Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection.” In an interview with Paula Zahn, Leonard said, “my mission was not to own, but to preserve; I wanted a collection of paintings that would always be there.” And so it shall be done at The Met.
At a preview of this magnificent collection, it was easy to take note of just how influential the cubism art movement was during the early years of the twentieth century. Eighty-one works of art including paintings, collages drawings and sculptures highlight the four major Cubist artists: Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, Juan Gris and George Braque. You’ll no doubt have your favorites. I was intrigued by the use of newspaper mastheads especially in works by Picasso and Gris.
A few blocks away on Fifth Avenue and 86th Street sits the Neue Galerie, a wonderful museum devoted to Austrian and German art founded and heavily endowed by Ronald. Standing in front of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece Adele Bloch-Bauer is reason enough to visit the Neue. But from now until January 19th a special exhibition titled “Egon Schiele: Portraits” is another reason to go. It’s the first museum look at an artist and his portraits considered by many to be one of the 20th century master collections.
The brothers Lauder have continually reinforced their active support of major philanthropic Jewish and other causes. The Ronald Lauder Foundation for example has provided assistance leading to the preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps as well as the restoration of synagogues including the Temple synagogue in Krakow, Poland. Ronald is also a past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Leonard has helped make the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital such an important medical facility.
Looking back, some childhood brothers of their age and generation may have simply traded baseball cards and perhaps even toys. Leonard and Ronald on the other hand have on occasion brought artworks together, including a purchase of a $24.7 million dollar Picasso painting. “Some are in his home and some are in mine,” Leonard told Art News, adding, “And then we swap.” Perhaps swapping a Picasso for a Schiele? Brotherly love never sounded so artistically affectionate.