When Ronald S. Lauder was thirteen, he made his first purchase of an Austrian modernist work, a drawing by the tragically short-lived Egon Schiele. It’s easy to understand why one of Schiele’s stylized, emotionally supercharged images would appeal to a young teenager. (I lusted after a Schiele drawing myself, at about the same age, but my meager savings were insufficient to my wishes and my mother refused a loan for the balance.) Lauder’s precocious attraction to the drawing that he acquired had profound effects. It gave rise to a lifelong passion for the work of early twentieth-century Austrian artists and their German counterparts and led to a thirty-year friendship with the art dealer and curator Serge Sabarsky (1912–96), a deeply knowledgeable specialist in the field. Together, the two men planned a museum focusing on the artists they admired—Schiele, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig...


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