Leonard A. Lauder
Cosmetics (Estée Lauder Companies)
When Leonard Lauder was six he fell in love—with a postcard of the Empire State Building. That postcard was the beginning of a collection that today includes more than 125,000 postcards and counting. However, Lauder is far better known for a different group of works—the outstanding collection of Cubist paintings, sculptures, and collages that he donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013. The Leonard A. Lauder Collection includes 81 pieces by Picasso, Braque, Léger, and Gris, and has been valued at more than $1 billion. Forty years in the making, the gift is the result of a single-minded dedication to a single style of museum-quality art—a rare endeavor.
As Lauder told the New York Times, “You can’t put together a good collection unless you are focused, disciplined, tenacious, and willing to pay more than you can possibly afford.” Even after making the donation, he has continued to support the museum. In fall 2018, the Met acquired the 1914 Juan Gris Cubist still life The Musician’s Table with help from Lauder. The painting was offered at Christie’s New York that year from the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller in New York. With a winning bid from Lauder of $31.8 million it was easily one of the top lots at the sale. In a statement, Max Hollein, the new director of the Met, praised Lauder for his contributions to the Met’s holdings, saying that “there is no one who better exemplifies the spirit of giving that has fostered the growth of the Met and the benefits it provides to the public than Leonard A. Lauder.” In response, Lauder said, “I am inspired by previous generations of supporters who have contributed to making the Met’s collections among the greatest in the world.”