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Friday, 8 May, 1998, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Major works left to museum
Picasso's painting 'Still Life with a Cake'
Picasso's painting 'Still Life with a Cake' is one of the works of art donated by Natasha Gelman

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has been bequeathed 85 works of art by early 20th century artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Miro and Modigliani, reports Jane Hughes.

The collection is valued at $300m, and the museum has described it as one of the most important gifts it has ever received.

The Metropolitan Museum already houses one of the most important art collections in the world, and this bequest makes its 20th-century section even stronger. It includes a Degas sculpture, Matisse's Young Sailor Two, which is considered a classic example of his work, several pieces by Picasso and the museum's first works by Mondrian, Bacon and Giacometti.

The collection belonged to Natasha Gelman, who died on Saturday at the age of 86. She and her husband, who was a film producer, were passionate about art and spent much of their life amassing the works.

The interior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
The museum already houses one of the world's most important art collections
Art critics consider it to have been one of the strongest collections in private hands.

The Metropolitan Museum's director, Philippe de Montebello, was in Paris when he heard the news of Mrs Gelman's bequest.

Illustrates modern art history

"While we are universal museums with collections ranging from Egypt, through Greece and Rome, through Europe, in every medium the 20th century looked a bit anaemic relative to our strength in other areas," Mr de Montebello said.

"What this does is redress the balance and allow us to show the continuum of art history into the 20th century."

The collection is already being displayed at the Metropolitan Museum in a temporary exhibition. It is now to be housed permanently in its own gallery in accordance with Mrs Gelman's will.

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