Cubist onslaught: The public is the beneficiary of an art lover's gift

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Cubist paintings, drawings and sculptures are among the most prized -- and most recognizable -- of early 20th century art masterpieces. The movement's heavyweights are a murderer's row of great 20th century artists: Pablo Picasso, Fernand Leger, Georges Braques and Juan Gris.

Cubism was created by Picasso and Braques, who collaborated on the movement's earliest pieces.

Even those who don't like modernist art from the last century have a soft spot for cubism. Although there is a fair amount of abstraction involved, there are enough recognizable elements in the art to make its paintings, drawings and sculptures accessible to the public.

Art collector and philanthropist Leonard Lauder recently offered a $1 billion gift of 78 cubist paintings to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which the Met's board eagerly approved on Tuesday. The Met has always been the also-ran in the New York museum world when it comes to early-20th century modern art. It trails the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in the breadth and quality of pieces from that era.

Not anymore. The Met will soon become the home of one of the richest and deepest collections of cubism in the world. It is a magnificent gesture to a museum that is often overlooked by tourists who flock to the higher-profile MOMA. Leave it to 78 pieces of cubist art to correct an imbalance. It will be the star of the Met's soon-to-be renovated galleries.

The Lauder gift benefits not only the Metropolitan Museum of Art but also a grateful public that will finally get a chance to see these works in a museum setting for the first time. One of the world's most celebrated collections can soon be celebrated by all.

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