Leonard Lauder. Photo: Jackie Neale.

Met Museum’s Financial Troubles Delay Exhibition of Leonard Lauder’s Cubist Art Gift

Despite the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recent troubles—namely an enervating budget deficit, which has interrupted the building of a $600 million wing for modern and contemporary art, scheduled to open in 2020, the year of the Met’s 150th anniversary—wealthy businessman and arts patron Leonard Lauder is still planning on giving his collection of Cubist art to the museum, which was promised to the institution four years ago, writes Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times.

“There is no issue with my gift,” said Lauder, whose collection was valued at $1 billion in 2013. “We are aligned and I am confident that the Met will present the collection in a manner that is consistent with the excellence for which it is known.” The wing is supposed to house the seventy-eight artworks Lauder is giving to the museum, though the gift was never contingent on the building of the David Chipperfield–designed addition.

The Met is currently trying to secure $300 million in donations for construction of the wing. People with a net worth of at least $5 billion, such as Met trustee and conservative activist David H. Koch, who paid $65 million for the renovation of the museum’s plaza; and Wall Street businessman Stephen A. Schwarzman, who gave $100 million to the New York Public Library in 2008, were approached, but did not give money.

Lauder’s collection could go to the Met Breuer, but since the site costs $17 million a year to run and the lease ends in 2023, it’s unlikely that the financially troubled museum will go in that direction. Many agree that the Met’s current galleries for its modern and contemporary collection—the Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, built in 1987—are in need of a major facelift. Even the wing’s original architect, Kevin Roche, said that he was never happy with the way it turned out. Right now the museum is putting aside the plans for the wing to focus on its infrastructural needs. Nonetheless, Lauder thinks the Met is “the greatest museum in the world,” according to Daniel Brodsky, the chairman of the museum’s board.