One of the great collections of modern art -- a collection featuring such stellar names as Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso and Renoir -- is coming to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery this summer, the gallery announced today.
"The William S. Paley Collection" will be at the gallery from July 22 to Oct. 1. Douglas G. Schultz, gallery director, says it promises to surpass the success of the Van Gogh exhibition that broke attendance records at the Albright-Knox in 1962.
"We think that this is one of the biggest events to hit Western New York, and we're putting all our energies into it," Schultz says. "It is an exhibition with recognizable names, the kind of show that Western New Yorkers want to see. This offers the perfect opportunity."
The exhibition consists of 70 works by impressionist, post-impressionists and modern masters, many collected by Paley in the 1930s, long before modern art was in vogue.
The more famous works include Matisse's 1927 "Woman With Veil"; "Boy Leading a Horse," Picasso's "Rose Period" masterpiece; and Toulouse-Lautrec's 1897 portrait "M. de Lauradour."
Later, Paley was to add the work of more recent artists, such now-familiar names as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Francis Bacon. The collection holds paintings, drawings and sculpture, and in the last category includes works as diverse as George Segal's cool 1974 "Girl Leaving Shower" and Gaston Lachaise's seductive 1924 "Reclining Woman."
Paley, the founder of CBS and a communications mogul of extraordinary power, also was a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art as early as 1937, later serving as president and chairman of its board of trustees.
Schultz describes Paley as an enlightened individual who responded to modern art when few did. "His collecting goes back to the '30s, a time when the old masters were the thing," he said. "He was quite progressive and took an intense interest in modern art. He was very intimately involved with the Museum of Modern Art."
At Paley's death, the collection came to the museum. The exhibition, organized by the museum, was shown there in 1992.
The Buffalo show -- sponsored by M&T Bank -- is near the end of an international tour that has taken the collection to such cities as Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; and Seattle. After Buffalo, it will continue to Montreal and perhaps Tokyo.
In some ways this has been an invisible collection. With some noteable exceptions, these works rarely left the walls of Paley's apartment or office, making this one of the least-known collections of this caliber.
Schultz describes the collection as very intimate in character. "It's in many ways a personal collection. Paley bought pictures that he wanted to live with, and he did live with them for many years."
Big shows like this promise to have a favorable impact on the host city both economically and culturally. It can boost tourism and a city's national image. The Barnes Collection that was recently in Toronto was a spectacular success, adding to that city's prestige and to its coffers.
"The Barnes Collection has a greater concentration on a fewer number of artists, while the range of the Paley is broader," Schultz said.
But where it counts, the Paley equals the Barnes: "Painting for painting, it is comparable."
Such a potentially popular exhibition also helps to highlight Buffalo's own world-class art. Schultz notes that many of the Paley works fit nicely with the paintings and sculpture in the Albright-Knox collection, much of which will be on view concurrently.
"A show like this is important because it draws people to the museum," Schultz said. "It is an eye-opener for the general public, making people realize what they have in their own back yard."
Tickets, to go on sale in May, will be offered at what the Albright-Knox considers the most resonable price possible to draw the widest spectrum of people. Group sales are available immediately. Tourist packages will be offered through tour operators throughout Western New York, Southern Ontario and cities as distant as Cleveland.
"Shows of this significance will not be done very often in the future," Schultz said. "We are very fortunate to have it here."