Museum  May 31, 2023  Rebecca Schiffman

Buffalo’s AKG Art Museum Opens in June with Major Updates and Expansion

Photo: Blake Dawson for Buffalo AKG Art Museum | Rendering courtesy of OMA

Aerial view of the museum's campus, including a rendering of the new Gundlach Building, Great Lawn, and indoor Town Square covered by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann's Common Sky.

The Buffalo AKG Art Museum is going through a major update. Known to most by its former name, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the new AKG Museum will open on June 12th with an expanded and upgraded campus to house the museum’s expansive collection that holds works by leading Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Abstract Expressionists, Pop Artists, and more. In addition, the Museum hopes to put together its largest marketing campaign to date to get visitors up to Buffalo. 

Today, the Museum is known for its collection of art from across centuries rather than collecting one or two artists at depth. Thus its collection has grown to be the home of works such as Thomas Eakins, Music (1904), Paul Gauguin’s Spirit of the Dead Watching (1892), and Jaques-Louis David’s Portrait of Jacques-François Desmaisons, (1782). 

© Studio Other Spaces

Common Sky, 2019, by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann of Studio Other Spaces, will cover the museum's new indoor Town Square in the Seymour H. Knox Building.

The museum has long been hoping to expand its facilities to house its growing collection, provide spaces for special exhibitions, and increase its educational programs. Thus in 2014, the museum’s Board of Directors agreed to initiate an expansion project. In 2016, with a $42.5 million donation to the project, Jeffrey Gundlach, a Buffalo native, helped to fund the expansion. The new Gundlach building has since been in progress, boasting an addition 30,000 square feet of exhibition space. Its architect is no other than world-renowned firm OMA’s partner, Shohei Shigematsu.

Buffalo AKG Museum

Sculpture Terrace and main staircase in the new Gundlach Building

In addition to the building, the expansion project includes some artist interventions to further activate the space. In 2019, artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann of Studio Other Spaces created the work, Common Sky (2019), that covers the museum’s new indoor Town Square in the Seymour H. Knox Building.

The AKG Museum will be an important beacon of art history, but its main problem lies in its geographic location: Buffalo, a city in Western New York State, is not known to be a major tourist destination. Though it is nearby Niagara Falls, it remains a whopping six hour drive from New York City. Thus, with such a major renovation and an important collection, the AKG Museum has sought a marketing take-over, according to an article in the Buffalo News. The Museum’s marketing team has begun to deploy advertisements in many important American art publications, and is teaming up with Visit Buffalo Niagara to post advertisements in the print and digital New York Times in the hopes of reaching a much more global audience to make the pilgrimage to Buffalo.

Buffalo AKM Museum

View of the new Gundlach Building from the Wilmers Building

The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy was founded with much humbler beginnings in December 1862, with support from the then-President Millard Fillmore. But the so-called museum functioned without a permanent home for a couple decades, traveling to several temporary locations until the turn of the 20th century when John J. Albright stepped in. Thus on May 31, 1905, the Albright Art Gallery opened. The collection was limited to a few works, notably an Albert Bierstadt, Charles Webster Hawthorne, and in 1926, a Pablo Picasso. The museum became the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in 1962 when Seymour H. Knox, Jr. and hundreds of other donors helped with funds to add a new wing to the museum. In addition to the new architecture, the Knox Family gave funds to establish The Room of Contemporary Art, a space in the museum dedicated to showcase the newest and most radical art of its time. 

Since then, the museum has put on legendary exhibitions, including the first photography exhibition curated by Alfred Stieglitz, the 1978 exhibition on Richard Diebenkorn that was chosen to represent the United States at the 28th Venice Biennale, among many others. The new expansion will only help this museum’s storied history flourish into a bright future with more art, education, and exhibitions in its future.

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