While Aspen Institute Trustee Leonard Lauder made news for his recent contribution of a $1 billion Cubism collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the high art of his Picassos and Braques is but one of his art collections. In fact, his first compendium gifted to the Met was of an entirely different sort.
The Leonard A. Lauder Collection of American Art Posters of the 1890s entered the museum’s permanent collection over 25 years ago. In the summer of 2011, Lauder addressed an Aspen Institute audience, explaining his love of the printed medium. He started his collection by storing Office of War Information posters in his bathtub at age 11.
“People say to me ‘What do you do?’ I say, ‘I sell lipsticks.’ I’m a salesman. I love the concept of selling things and communicating,” he said from the stage at Paepcke Auditorium on the Institute’s Aspen campus. “Posters were the first instant mass communication. …Before email, before newspaper ads, before magazine ads…they were put everywhere and artists flocked there and people collected them.”
Lauder’s own collection dates back to late 19th century and specializes in vintage ski-related images, among several other themes. “We’d been collecting those posters for years and years and years. They were stored under our bed,” he paused. “If those posters could talk.”
While there’s no doubt that the latest set of donated works heading to the Met were stored quite differently, there is some symmetry between his two much-beloved collections. “We collect them not to possess—no, to conserve—and everything will go to a museum or various places,” said Lauder, who has built a legacy of philanthropy in the arts, in health care, at the Institute, and beyond.
Watch the video below to gain insight into Lauder’s love of collecting art, as well as the history of the more mass-produced art form that started it all.