NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cosmetics heir and art collector Leonard A. Lauder donated his collection of 78 Cubist works valued at more than a $1 billion (652.7 million pounds) to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Arts, its director said on Tuesday.
The collection, which consists of 33 works by Picasso, 17 by Braque, 14 by Gris and 14 by Leger, was amassed over 37 years and is considered one of the foremost collections of Cubism in the world.
"This is an extraordinary gift to our museum and our city," Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the museum, said in a statement. "Leonard's gift is truly transformational for the Metropolitan Museum."
The museum said the collection is unsurpassed in the number of masterpieces critical to the development of Cubism, which is considered the most influential art movement of the 20th century.
Lauder, an 80-year-old heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics fortune, said he decided to give the collection to the museum because he felt it essential that Cubism, and the art that followed it, be seen and studied within one of the greatest museums in the world.
"The Met's collection of modernism, together with those of MoMA, the Guggenheim, and the Whitney, reinforce the city's standing as the centre for 20th-century art and fuel New York's ongoing role as the art capital of the world," he said in a statement.
The museum said it is establishing a new research centre for modern art which will be supported by a $22 million endowment funded by museum trustees and supporters, including Lauder.
Picasso's "The Scallop Shell" ("Notre avenir est dans l'air") (1912) and "Woman in an Armchair" (Eva) (1913) and Braque's "Trees at L'Estaque" (1908) and "The Violin" (Mozart/Kubelick) (1912) are among the highlights of the collection, which will be presented at the museum for the first time in an exhibition scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; editing by Cynthia Osterman)