Unplanned Freud Tribute at the Met


A month ago, with no fanfare or press release and little signage to speak of, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art installed 17 major oil paintings by the British figurative master Lucian Freud.

The show of forceful fleshy nudes, sixteen of which hail from anonymous private collections, was originally billed as “British Painting After World War II.”

In light of Freud’s death last week at 88, the museum has renamed the exhibit “Homage to Lucian Freud.”

Gary Tinterow, the museum’s chairman of the department of 19th century, modern and contemporary art, said he began planning the Freud extravaganza in January 2011. “We are pleased that we are able to show such a remarkable group of post-war British paintings,” he said in a statement emailed to A.i.A.

The Met declined to comment on the identities of the lenders, but two dealers said the most significant paintings are believed to belong to British billionaire Joe Lewis. He made a fortune as an investor and currency trader. In the 1990s, Lewis owned nearly 30 percent of shares in Christie’s auction house.

A Frank Auerbach painting, a Francis Bacon triptych and a Bacon study for a portrait of Freud hang alongside the Freuds. Included is the Met’s own Naked Man, Back View (1991–92), a study of the performance artist Leigh Bowery.

The Met’s last Freud show took place in 1993-1994 and included about 60 paintings.

Lucian Freud, Naked Man, Back View, 1991–92. Oil on canvas 72-1/4 x 54-1/8 inches. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. © The Estate of Lucian Freud