Albert E. Gallatin’s gift helped build the foundation of one of the most important collections of modern art in the world. In the 1920s, Gallatin was a frequent visitor to the Paris studios of Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso. He became one of only a handful of American collectors of vanguard European art and opened his Gallery of Living Art at New York University in 1927. Announced as the first public collection devoted to contemporary art, the gallery was a beacon for American artists, including Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston.
Highlights of Gallatin’s collection include Fernand Léger’s The City and Picasso’s Three Musicians and Glass of Absinthe, one of the artist’s extraordinarily rare early sculptures. When NYU terminated its lease of Gallatin’s gallery space in 1942, museum director Fiske Kimball persuaded him to loan his works to Philadelphia. The more than 160 objects later entered the museum’s permanent collection after Gallatin’s death in 1952.