Having seen the exhibition, Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art shortly after it opened, I knew I wanted to return, but I hadn’t realized how quickly time was running out. On a grey day, the sidewalks slick with slush, I went back in the nick of time to find it woud be closing within hours. There's never been a time when I set foot in this magnificent building that I haven't come away feeling renewed. Even before you reach the galleries, you are greeted by five spectacular floral displays in the Great Hall. What's more, there's the cheering sight of thousands of visitors drawn from all over the world, poring through the front doors, eager to see for themselves the glories of this encyclopedic institution. If that isn’t pleasure enough, the Cubist exhibition—no need to climb the stairs, no need to go to the far reaches—has been installed close at hand, in a series of rooms on the ground floor off the Greek and Roman galleries.
Which is where I was heading when brought up short, watching the intent faces of a group of Asian visitors as a docent explained—in Mandarin?—the beauties of the Greek terra cotta amphora and the drinking vessels set out in the cases.
Upon entering the main exhibit, I'm greeted by a life-sized photographic image of Mr. Lauder's living room, showing a grouping of eight Cubist works over the sofa. The over-sized photograph is so engaging--dare I say mesmerizing--that everyone stops to look, stops to snap a photograph of the photograph.
Which is exactly what I was doing when a woman next to me said: When I first walked in, I thought that room was real! That's funny, I said. When I first walked in, I wondered what my sofa was doing there. We laughed; the museum guard smiled. Talk about art tricking the eye!
What’s the collection about? Cubism, one of the most radical and influential movements of the early twentieth century, attracted Mr. Lauder from an early age, when he first fell in love with a painting by Léger. And the stupendous collection he amassed—eighty paintings, drawings, collages and sculptures by four preeminent Cubist artists—is now a promised gift to the museum upon his death.
Given that it was his first love, it was not surprising to find, in another photograph taken in his apartment, the stunning painting by the French painter, Fernand Léger, Composition (The Typographer).
Isn't it spectacular? Then, too, there is the special pleasure of seeing great art in grand surroundings—the comfortable furnishings, a nearby piano weighted with family photos, a gilded side board that's fit for a king, and the dynamite views of Central Park. Nowadays, so many museums are mad for stark white walls. Not me. Give me the Getty, the Frick, the Nissim de Camondo or the Jacquemart-André. I could live happily in any of them.
Just as important were other electrifying paintings by Georges Braque (French, 1882-1963), Juan Gris (Spanish, 1887-1927), Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955), and Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). Here are some of my favorites: A Braque to the left; a Picasso to the right, and a Juan Gris down below.
After viewing the exhibition for an hour or so, it was time for a cup of coffee. Heading for the cafe, I passed a gentleman creating a work of art. Just another working day at the MET.
And there I sat, overlooking Central Park, watching it snow. All the while wondering how best to share my enthusiasm for all I had seen in one afternoon. I'll bet each of you has a favorite museum. So where is it? What made you fall in love with it? I'd love to hear about it.