Buffalo art museum reopening: Buffalo AKG Art Museum reopens in May 2023

The Buffalo AKG Art Museum (formerly the Albright-Knox Art Gallery) announced it will open on May 25, 2023, welcoming its local community and visitors from around the world to its renewed and vastly expanded campus designed by OMA/Shohei Shigematsu. The Buffalo art museum reopening announcement of November 21 also marked the official completion of the museum’s $230 million capital campaign, the largest such campaign for a cultural institution in the history of Western New York, due to an additional $20 million commitment of support from New York State. In total, approximately $195 million was raised for the construction project, with an additional $35 million raised in operating endowment funds.

“The vision for this project is to create a museum that can serve as a platform for human expression and a cultural resource for everyone in our community,” Board President Alice Jacobs said. “The leadership of the Buffalo AKG is constantly evaluating the role of the museum in today’s rapidly changing world and how best to contribute and partner with others for the public good.”

Jeffrey E. Gundlach was the lead patron spearheading private funding for the Buffalo art museum reopening project.

“More than six years ago Albright-Knox leadership embarked on a fundraising campaign. The goal was considered ambitious:  $80 million to renovate and expand the existing campus so the world class art collection could be more appropriately and fully displayed,” he said. ” Thanks to the enthusiastic response of the community and its public officials, who together pledged over $100 million in just several weeks, all doubt and anxiety that the rusty City of Buffalo could possibly succeed at such a project was replaced by excitement and pride. Imaginations were allowed to soar and envision expanded possibilities. Possibilities that are nearing full realization with this momentous news today. The days of Buffalo greatness are no longer a distant memory. They are in the here and now, and in the future.”

The New Buffalo AKG Campus

Designed by OMA/Shohei Shigematsu in collaboration with Cooper Robertson, with substantial input from communities throughout Western New York and the museum’s leadership, the renewed and expanded campus of the Buffalo art museum reopening will stretch alongside the city’s beloved Frederick Law Olmsted–designed Delaware Park. With the addition of three new points of entry positioned throughout the campus, the museum’s architectural presence will now reflect and advance its mission to radically increase the accessibility of its facilities and engage all members of its community with an inclusive, interactive, and porous campus.

The Buffalo AKG will comprise more than 50,000 square feet of prime exhibition space, five state-of-the-art studio classrooms, an interior community gathering space, and more than half an acre of new public green space situated above an underground parking garage. On the north side of the campus is the Jeffrey E. Gundlach Building—a work of signature architecture that adds more than 30,000 square feet of space for the display of special exhibitions and the museum’s world-renowned collection of modern and contemporary art. Featuring a translucent glass curtain wall, the Gundlach Building furthers the museum’s mission of accessibility and initiates a dialogue with the surrounding community, inverting the traditional model of the art museum as an opaque facility and creating tremendous porosity between interior and exterior.

Galleries are located on all three floors of the Gundlach Building. Ranging from an intimate black box gallery on the ground floor, to the enclosed Sculpture Terrace on the second, to the expansive 7,530-square-foot gallery on the third, the Gundlach Building offers artists and curators a broad range of highly flexible exhibition spaces to present contemporary and modern art of all scales and media.

To integrate the Gundlach Building with the museum’s existing campus, OMA has designed the John J. Albright Bridge—a unique glass-walled structure that connects the Gundlach Building with the Robert and Elisabeth Wilmers Building, designed by E. B. Green and originally constructed in 1905. The bridge was designed with a unique, circuitous path from the second floor of the Gundlach Building to the main floor of the Wilmers Building to protect a grove of historic oak trees, ensure a slope compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and facilitate the transport of artworks from one end of the campus to the other.

A masterpiece of neoclassical architecture, the Wilmers Building has received numerous updates and improvements, including a new roof, a thorough cleaning of its marble façade, red oak flooring, and the re-creation of the historic staircase that originally adorned the building’s west façade. Substantial improvements are also underway for the museum’s existing Seymour H. Knox Building, designed by Gordon Bunshaft and completed in 1962.

The building’s original open-air and largely inaccessible interior courtyard has been covered with a site-specific artwork, Common Sky, by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann of Studio Other Spaces. The sculpture is a canopy of glass and mirrors that transforms the space into the Town Square—the centerpiece of the museum’s community engagement and outreach activities.

Free of admission charges, the Knox Building will also feature a 2,000-square-foot gallery, five classroom studios each dedicated to a specific artistic medium, a 350-seat auditorium, and a new restaurant.

Buffalo AKG Inaugural Exhibitions

To celebrate its public opening, the Buffalo AKG will present a major installation of its world-renowned collection of modern and contemporary art. Stretching through the entirety of the new campus, the installation will include approximately 400 artworks—dating from the second half of the eighteenth century through to today—presenting a loosely chronological examination of the evolution of Western modern art and international contemporary art over the last two centuries. Encompassing painting, sculpture, photography, works on paper, and video and time-based media, the inaugural collection installation will underscore the power of the Buffalo AKG’s new campus to dynamically present a broad spectrum of modern and contemporary art across media and scales—fostering deeper levels of understanding and engagement between the museum’s community and its collection.

Throughout the galleries of the Wilmers Building, the installation will begin with a presentation of its late eighteenth- to mid-twentieth-century masterworks, including works such as Vincent van Gogh’s La maison de La Crau (The Old Mill), 1888; Giacamo Balla’s Dinamismo di un cane al guinzaglio (Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash), 1912; Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Monkey, 1938; Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, 1952; Joan Mitchell’s George Went Swimming at Barnes Hole, but It Got Too Cold, 1957, and Andy Warhol’s 100 Cans, 1962; among many others. Alongside the museum’s beloved masterpieces, the installation will also showcase works by a number of pioneering twentieth-century figures, such as painter Joan Brown (American, 1938–1990); Chicago-based sculptor Richard Hunt (American, born 1935); artist and futurist Magda Cordell (Hungarian, 1921–2008); and Pop Art trailblazer Marisol (Venezuelan and American, born France, 1930–2016)—who bequeathed the entirety of her estate to the museum in 2016.

After traveling across the John J. Albright Bridge, guests will enter the Gundlach Building and encounter major highlights of the museum’s collection of late twentieth and early twenty-first-century artworks across media. Installed throughout the new building’s second and third floors, including the second-floor indoor Sculpture Terrace, the exhibition will feature notable works such as: Carolee Schneemann’s Meat Joy, 1964; Donald Judd’s Untitled, 1969; Dan Flavin’s untitled (to Donna) 6, 1971; Philip Guston’s Multiplied, 1972; Hannah Wilke’s Gestures, 1974; Robert Gober’s The Inverted Sink, 1985; Robert Colescott’s Feeling His Oats, 1988; Thomas Struth’s Louvre 2, 1990; Ross Bleckner’s Falling Birds, 1994; Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s Untitled (Double Portrait), 1991; Lorna Simpson’s Counting, 1991; Alfredo Jaar’s Life Magazine, April 19, 1968, 1995; Mark Bradford’s Mississippi Gottdam, 2007; Mickalene Thomas’s Interior: Monet’s Blue Foyer, 2012; Anselm Kiefer’s der Morgenthau Plan, 2012; and Theaster Gates’s Civil Tapestry 5, 2012, among many others.

The Gundlach Building’s monumental third floor gallery will be dedicated to showcasing major highlights of the museum’s recent acquisitions that will make their Buffalo debut at the museum’s opening. The Buffalo AKG’s acquisitions reflect the museum’s identity and legacy as an artist-centric institution and its longstanding commitment to nurturing the practices and collecting the work of living artists. Selected recent acquisitions that will be on view on the third floor and throughout the Gundlach Building include:

  • Ragna Bley (Swedish, born 1986), Serrated Tongues, 2021, acrylic on cotton sailcloth
  • Nick Cave (American, born 1959), Speak Louder, 2011, mixed media installation
  • Ed Clark (American, 1926–2019), Untitled (New York Series), 1991, acrylic on canvas
  • Tiffany Chung (American, born Vietnam, 1969), reconstructing an exodus history: flight routes from camps and of ODP cases, 2017, embroidery on fabric 
  • Ida Ekblad (Norwegian, born 1980), Sidelock of Youth, 2020, oil on linen
  • Simone Forti (American, born Italy, 1935), Harmonics (3), 1975–78, 20º Multiplex Hologram on wooden plinth, light bulb
  • Jeffrey Gibson (Choctaw/Cherokee, born 1972), People Like Us, 2019, mixed media sculptural garment
  • Simone Leigh (American, born 1967), Village Series, 2021, glazed stoneware, metal, and raffia sculpture
  • Teresa Margolles (Mexican, born 1963), Esta finca no será demolida (This property will not be demolished), 2011, set of forty chromogenic color prints
  • Deborah Roberts (American, born 1962), That One, 2018, mixed media collage on canvas
  • Rose B. Simpson (American, born 1983), Countdown II, 2020, mixed-media sculpture
  • Stanley Whitney (American, born 1946), Endless Time, 2017, oil on canvas

Clyfford Still: A Total Vision

On the ground floor of the Gundlach Building, the Buffalo AKG will present Clyfford Still: A Total Vision—a special exhibition encompassing the entirety of the museum’s holdings by leading Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still (American, 1904–1980). The exhibition marks the first time in more than fifteen years that the museum will present its complete Still collection—the second largest in the world following the Clyfford Still Museum’s collection. In total, the Buffalo AKG has thirty-three paintings by Still (thirty-one of which were given to the museum by the artist), spanning from 1937 to 1963 and including groundbreaking canvases such as 1947-8-A, 1947-1948; 1957-D-No. 1, 1957; and 1963-A, 1963. 

The museum will also present seldom-seen archival materials and photographs that illuminate the uniquely close relationship between the artist, the museum, and the City of Buffalo.

“As America’s first museum of modern and contemporary art, the Buffalo AKG is known for taking risks while exhibiting and acquiring the work of emerging and underrecognized artists,” Cathleen Chaffee, Charles Balbach Chief Curator, said. “The vastly expanded museum will provide, for the first time in our history, enough space to celebrate the artists in our extraordinary modern collection while also honoring new works that speak to contemporary experiences.”

Support and Economic Impact of the New Buffalo AKG 

The capital campaign to realize the Buffalo art museum reopening was catalyzed by the lead patron of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum financier Jeffrey Gundlach, who has given a total of $65 million to the capital campaign through a series of matching challenges. The challenges stipulated that support must be secured from both public and private sources. The result is a public-private partnership that exemplifies the unprecedented community support for this project. The $20 million commitment to the project from Governor Hochul and New York State fulfills the capital expansion budget of approximately $195 million. In addition, the museum has raised approximately $35 million in operating endowment funds.

As one of the oldest public arts institutions in the United States, the Buffalo AKG has for decades impacted the local and state economies as a cultural anchor. The museum is an employer, a tax generator for local and state governments, and a major driver of tourism. Prior to embarking on the most significant campus development and expansion project in the institution’s history, the museum’s economic impact was measured by the University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI) as annually generating $24 million for the New York State economy, with $16 million benefiting Erie County and $10 million impacting the City of Buffalo. Upon completion of the project, UBRI projects the annual economic impact of the Buffalo AKG to expand to $36-$47 million.

Additionally, the one-time economic impact of the campus development and expansion project is $281 million over three years across New York State. Every dollar invested in the construction of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum generates twice as much in total economic impact for New York State.

About the Buffalo AKG Art Museum

Founded in 1862, the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (formerly the Albright-Knox Art Gallery) is the sixth oldest public art institution in the United States. For 160 years, the Buffalo AKG has collected, conserved, and exhibited the art of its time, often working directly with living artists. This tradition has given rise to one of the world’s most extraordinary collections of modern and contemporary art.

The museum’s collections span some of the greatest moments in art through the centuries, beginning with Marina Piccola, Capri, 1859, by Albert Bierstadt—both the first painting and the first work gifted by an artist to enter the museum’s collection—and is especially rich in postwar American and European art.

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