The former Albright-Knox Art Gallery, now the Buffalo AKG Museum of Art, will reopen to the public on May 25, 2023, with a greatly renovated and expanded campus designed by OMA partner Shohei Shigematsu.
A $20 million commitment from New York State, announced Monday by Governor Kathy Hochul, completes the Buffalo museum’s $230 million capital campaign, believed to be the largest for a cultural institution in western New York history. .
Throughout its history, the museum has been early on to receive works by living artists, starting with a gift from Hudson River School painter Albert Bierstadt in 1863, a year after its opening. It was also among the first institutions to gather artists such as Jackson Pollock, Henry Moore, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol and Mark Bradford.
Governor Hochul, who is home to Buffalo, said the expansion is “a transformative project that will provide significant boost to Buffalo’s future.” The museum has been closed since construction began in November 2019.
With this campus overhaul, the museum’s annual economic impact on the state will increase from $24 million to $47 million, with annual attendance increasing from 135,000 to 185,000 to 205,000, according to the University of Buffalo Regional Institute, a research center the museum partners with. to carry out a comprehensive regional study consisting of two parts.
The centerpiece of Shigematsu’s design is a new three-story gallery building encased in a glass curtain wall. The building will be connected to the 1905 neo-classical building designed by EB Green by an imaginary transparent bridge that curves through the oak trees. Alongside the 1905 building, Shigematsu oversaw significant renovations to a Gordon Bunshaft-designed modernist building that bridged the two structures with an outdoor sculpture court that was rarely used given Buffalo’s inclement weather in 1962.
In a site-specific artwork by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann of Studio Other Spaces, creating a new community gathering space for the campus, the courtyard is now surrounded by a dramatic glass canopy and mirrors rising from a funnel form.
“One of the key drivers of this entire campus project has been to design an architectural solution that is synergistic with our mission to be an open and accessible museum for a diverse audience,” said museum director Janne Siren.
Financier Jeffrey E. Gundlach, a Buffalo native represented by the G in the museum’s new name, gave $65 million for expansion, provided the campaign included both private contributions and government support. (The new gallery building was also named after Gundlach.)
Overall, the museum is doubling its exhibit space to 50,000 square feet, all dedicated to the permanent collection in an inaugural re-installation that will showcase more than 400 works.
Nearly 15 percent have never been exhibited, including works by Nick Cave, Ed Clark, Simone Forti, Jeffrey Gibson, Arthur Jafa, Simone Leigh and Stanley Whitney. The highlight will be the exhibition of all 33 monumental paintings by Abstract Expressionist pioneer Clyfford Still, the artist’s second largest worldwide possession after the Clyfford Still Museum’s collection. Still, after his first career retrospective in 1959, he personally gave 31 of these works to the Buffalo museum in 1961.
“He still considered the museum a good home for his art,” Siren said, “a house with an artist-centered ethic.”