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Jacques and Natasha Gelman Galleries
Lila Acheson Wallace Wing, first floor

A private collection studded with 20th-century masterpieces by Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Balthus, Modigliani, and more than two dozen other artists, and bequeathed to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1998, goes on display at the Metropolitan with the inauguration of the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Galleries on June 1. The collection – which was first shown publicly in 1989 at the Metropolitan – was amassed over a period of more than 40 years by the Gelmans. The initial selection of 47 paintings and 3 bronzes by artists of the School of Paris will include such icons as Matisse's The Young Sailor (1906), a 1906 self-portrait of Picasso that once hung in Gertrude Stein's home, Braque's The Billiard Table (1944 and 1952), Bonnard's The Dining Room at Vernonnet (1916), Vlaminck's 1906 portrait of André Derain, Dalí's Accommodations of Desire (1929), Balthus's Thérèse Dreaming (1938), and a cluster of Mirós including The Potato (1928).

Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum, stated: "This outstanding collection, the most generous and significant gift to the Department of Modern Art – and in fact one of the most important gifts of works of art ever bestowed on any area of the Museum – exponentially transformed the Metropolitan's holdings of 20th-century art. The intelligence and foresight of Jacques and Natasha Gelman in collecting these masterpieces, and their generosity in bequeathing them to this Museum, with which they were so involved, has benefited all museumgoers, who can now view the works at any time in their new, permanent home in the Wallace Wing."

William S. Lieberman, whose chairmanship of the Museum's Department of Modern Art is named for Jacques and Natasha Gelman, wrote in his introduction to the 1989 exhibition catalogue on the Gelman Collection: "Although acquired for personal enjoyment and never intended as a survey, the Gelmans' choice of European paintings and drawings is astonishingly coherent. Its quality is superbly sustained, and I find it difficult – perhaps impossible – to suggest any other private selection similarly defined in focus that is of comparable caliber. Representation of the School of Paris is particularly strong, and comprises a constellation of masterworks of our time."

Jacques and Natasha Gelman, both born in Europe, met in Mexico City in December 1939 and were married in 1941. Jacques Gelman was the producer and distributor of films that starred his partner, Cantinflas – who became the most popular comedian in the Spanish-speaking world. Jacques and Natasha Gelman gained Mexican citizenship and subsequently resided in both Mexico City and New York. Together they collected works of art, which were always decided upon jointly. Jacques Gelman died in 1986, and his wife continued to refine their collection until her death in 1998, at which time it was bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum along with an endowment with which to maintain it.

When the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Galleries open to the public on June 1, the first gallery will be devoted to the work of the Fauve artists, who developed a distinctive style of painting – featuring flattened space, juxtaposed vivid and expressive colors, and bold and often simplified patterns – during their short but fruitful collaboration beginning in 1905. Paintings by André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Georges Rouault are among those in the gallery. The Young Sailor (1906), Henri Matisse's second version of the subject, is hung next to a work by Pablo Picasso, an artist not usually associated with the Fauve painters.

In the second gallery, seven paintings arranged in chronological order illustrate different developments in the Cubist style between 1911 and 1924. The sequence begins with two monochromatic works painted in 1911 in Céret, a town high in the French Pyrenees – Braque's Still Life with a Pair of Banderillas and Picasso's Still Life with a Bottle of Rum. It continues with a still life with guitar by Juan Gris (1913), a vertical composition by Giorgio de Chirico entitled The Jewish Angel (1916), and two paintings by Léger – his The Bargeman of 1918, a study for a larger painting, and Mechanical Elements (1920), an abstract work of cylindrical and other geometric shapes. This section of Cubist paintings concludes with a sumptuous horizontal still life by Picasso, composed in a Cubist idiom in 1924.

The following section of the installation is devoted to Modigliani, Braque, and Bonnard, including a Modigliani portrait of a blue-eyed boy against a blue background ("Modigliani is a young man's love," Jacques Gelman once remarked), Braque's majestic Still Life with a Guitar (1924), and two paintings by Bonnard featuring his companion Marthe Boursin (later his wife) – After the Morning Bath (1910) and The Dining Room at Vernonnet (1916).

Salvador Dalí's melodramatic and autobiographical Accommodations of Desire, dated 1929, introduces the section in the Gelman Galleries devoted to Surrealism, a movement that the artist – who was a master of illusion, as well as an expert technician both as a painter and draftsman – joined that same year. Five works by Joan Miró follow, spanning three decades – Nude Holding a Flower (1917), Vine and Olive Trees, Tarragona (1919) of Miró's family's Catalan farm, a Surrealistic 1927 view from a window called Animated Landscape, The Potato (1928) in which a gigantic white woman casts her arms across a blue sky, and Women, Birds, and a Star (1949). Two landscapes by Yves Tanguy and two paintings by Balthus conclude the gallery.

The final section of the installation features post-1940 works by Victor Brauner, Jean Dubuffet, and Alberto Giacometti. Two Dubuffet paintings on view were included in the artist's scandalous 1944 debut exhibition in Paris, and the three Giacometti bronzes – Three Men Walking, Cat, and Woman of Venice – date from 1949, 1954, and 1956 respectively.

The current selection of works will remain on view in the Gelman Galleries through February 3, 2002. Subsequent installations will include drawings, which can be exposed to light only for short periods of time.

In the fall, a variety of education programs will be offered, including gallery talks.

The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Galleries are overseen by William S. Lieberman. In this first selection from the collection he was assisted by Anne L. Strauss, Assistant Curator in the Department of Modern Art. The overall installation is supervised by Jeffrey L. Daly, Chief Designer, with graphic design by Barbara Weiss, and lighting by Zack Zanolli, Lighting Designer, all of the Museum's Design Department.


June 1, 2001

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