The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today the addition of Juan Gris’s remarkable The Musician’s Table (May–June 1914) to the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its founding in 2020, and announced that one part of its celebration will be to further evolve its encyclopedic collection in a number of areas.
Acquired with funds given by Leonard A. Lauder, this major example of Juan Gris’s exploration in papier collé joins the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection now totaling 83 works by Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso.
“Our 150th anniversary offers an opportunity to celebrate, to thank our supporters and visitors, and importantly, to continue to expand the artistic excellence of our collections and the complex cultural narratives they tell,” said Mr. Hollein.
“And to help launch the Collections Initiative, 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 with his continued support of the collections as well as curatorial positions, and the Research Center.”
Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso invented papier collé in 1912 as yet another avant-garde challenge to the traditional illusionism in painting and to embrace the realities of modern mass culture.
Juan Gris (Spanish, 1887–1927), however, was the first to exhibit a cubist collage in a public exhibition, drawing immediate notoriety and making his name as an avant-garde artist.
Between December 1913 and October 1914, the artist moved away from painting to concentrate on this novel, hybrid technique, producing some 40 works with cut and pasted papers, oil paint, gouache, and various drawing media.
Decorative wallpapers and allusions to the pulp fiction novels Fantomas particularly inspired him, and he carefully organized his compositions around the textural and symbolic properties of his materials.
His works from 1914 have been praised as the summit of the artist’s oeuvre by Cubist scholar John Golding, who wrote that they “represent the climax of Gris’s exploration of the intellectual possibilities of Cubism and of the new techniques it has introduced.”
Within the carefully cut and pasted layers of The Musician’s Table, Gris inserted a clever message: the headline of the journal that rests on the table is made from newspaper mastheads from two different dates and refers to the mounting tensions of 1914 but also to rivalries between the Cubists. Along with the violin yet to be played and notation sheet awaiting a score, the composition suggests Gris’s hope for peace and harmony with his fellow artists.
This magnificent new acquisition is now on view in gallery 908 along with other hallmarks of The Met’s modern art collection.
Image: Juan Gris (Spanish, 1887–1927). The Musician’s Table, 1914. Charcoal, wax crayon, gouache, cut-and-pasted printed wallpaper, blue and white laid papers, transparentized paper, newsprint, and brown wrapping paper; selectively varnished on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, Purchase, Leonard A. Lauder Gift, 2018 .