extensive travels intensified not only his appreciation for art,
but his command of foreign languages. Already fluent in French and
German by the time he came to Penn, Lauder studied Swedish to fulfill
the language requirement for his self-created major of international
business at the Wharton School. He believes undergraduates should
spend time learning languages, as in the language-and-culture curriculum
that is the focus of the Lauder Institute of Management and International
Studies at Penn.
Neue Galerie New York is the result of years of planning by Lauder
and the late Serge Sabarsky, the Vienna-born owner of a major gallery
of German and Austrian art. The two met while Lauder was building
his own collection, and a warm friendship developed between them.
Convinced that their collections belonged in a beautiful building
that the public could enjoy, they bought the Beaux Arts
Vanderbilt Mansion at 86th and Fifth Avenue, which had been designed
in 1914 by the architectural firm CarrÈre & Hastings, creators
of the New York City Public Library and Vernon Court. (See accompanying
choice of the mansion was serendipitous for many reasons, notes
Lauder. He points to the time of the buildings design1914as the
same period when many of the art works were being created inside
Neue Galeries size sets it apart from many of its neighbors along
New Yorks august Museum Mile. With only 4,300 square feet of exhibition
space, arranged for special as well as permanent exhibitions, the
museum can hold 300 people. It is also unique for its equal inclusion
of fine and decorative arts from the artists of the period. Paintings,
sculptures, and a wide range of works on paper hang near large and
small design objects, ranging from dramatic ceiling fixtures and
drawing cabinets to flatware, glass, and china.
Serge Sabarskys death in 1996, Lauder pressed ahead with architect
Annabelle Selldorf on the buildings restoration. She left some
rooms untouched, such as the elegant second-floor salon, while redesigning
others as suitable settings for the objects of art.
inaugural exhibition, New Worlds: German and Austrian Art, 1890-1940,
was followed by this springs exhibition of early portraits from
Vienna and Berlin by Oscar Kokoschka, whose works in watercolor,
gouache, and pencil on paper remain in the Austrian galleries.
through the Neue Galerie is like visiting someones wonderful, art-laden
city home. Well, perhaps most town houses dont strive to instruct
the guest with signs describing German Expressionism or the Bauhaus
movement. But it is nice to have both a visual treat and a learning
experience in as accessible an institution as this one.
decision to house the collections in a relatively small building
was a conscious one. Lauder speaks of visiting the Philadelphia
Museum of Art three or four times a week, while I was at Penn.
I would go through one room each time, memorizing the pictures Id
seen that day. I think its better to view a limited number of art
worksand really enjoy seeing them. I hope thats what people experience
at the Neue Galerie.
bulk of the collection comes from the early decades of the 20th
century, and some of its most exciting pieces were created during
that time. The large and colorful oils of Gustav Klimt seize the
imagination, as do such decorative objects as Josef Hoffmanns hanging
lamp and armoire for a little girls room, and his gem-studded jewelry.
course any museum focusing on Germanic culture cannot escape its
impact on World War II. The new objectivity of German artists
of the mid-1920s points up the artists socially critical and cynical
view of post-World War I German society. The stark bodies and gaunt
faces in the canvases of George Grosz, Otto Dix, and Max Beckmann
presage their concerns about what is to come.
while most of the German and Austrian artists of the timewhose
work was later labeled degenerate by the Naziswere not Jewish
by birth, many of their original patrons were, a fact which magnified
the hatred directed at artists and supporters alike in the 1930s.
creation of a museum celebrating German and Austrian art comes as
the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation has spread to 15 countries, attempting
to revive dormant Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. The foundation
funds Jewish day schools, restoration of historical sites, and the
selection of rabbis for synagogues in cities where Jewish life was
nearly obliterated by the Nazis.
100,000 people have visited the museum since its opening in Novembera
time when New York tourism was considerably down.
the first cultural institution to open after September 11, says
Lauder, weve been told by visitors how much the Neue Galerie has
brightened the New York scene. Part of our success has certainly
been timing, when people wanted something fresh and different.
Freedman Horwitz CW58 ASC62 has published three books for Grolier/
Scholastic and is now working on a mystery novel. She spends as
much time as possible checking out the New York and Philadelphia