The Buffalo AKG Museum, formerly known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, is set to open this summer after over three years of transformative renovations. The museum’s vast expansion was funded by a $230 million capital campaign — the largest in the history of any Western New York cultural institution.
More of a rebirth than a simple reopening, the museum’s June 2023 debut will include new acquisitions, new community space and a completely reinvigorated 50,000-square-foot campus.
Architect Shohei Shigematsu led the overhaul of the museum’s campus and designed the new Jeffrey E. Gundlach Building, an ultra-modern structure that will house 30,000 square feet of gallery space, a sculpture garden and a theater. Its glass paneling and grand spiral staircase are a stark contrast against the original Knox Building, a small Greek Revivalist structure built in the early 1900s.
The top of the Gundlach Building will provide a bird’s-eye view of Delaware Park, giving the museum a sense of openness and connection to nature.
The new Buffalo AKG campus will also include the Ralph Wilson Town Square, the museum’s new hub for community engagement. Once an open-air pavilion attached to the Knox Building, the town square has been renovated to serve as a “comfortable, accessible community space that people from across Western New York and beyond can visit without the need to purchase anything,” according to a press release.
Covered by “Common Sky,” an intricate glass roof designed by artists Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann, the Town Square will host performances, interactive art installations and a restaurant. Admission to this part of the museum will be completely free of charge. Much of the museum’s permanent collection — including notable contemporary and modern works by artists like Paul Gaugin, Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo — will be reframed and reglazed to be put back on display. But the museum’s expansion has doubled the amount of space to showcase art — and with this extra space comes plenty of new acquisitions.
The museum recently acquired one of Yayoi Kusama’s iconic “Infinity Rooms,” titled “My Heart is Dancing into the Universe.” The immersive installation, a mirrored room lit up with kaleidoscopic lanterns and covered in the artist’s trademark polka dots, is the first major work by Kusama to enter the museum’s collection.
Among the Buffalo AKG’s inaugural exhibitions is “Through a Modernist Lens: Buffalo and the Photo-Secession,” a show that will highlight more than 600 photographs from the museum’s extensive photography collection, featuring artists like Alfred Stieglitz and James Craig Annan.
Also opening is “Clyfford Still: A Legacy for Buffalo,” a retrospective of the enigmatic abstract expressionist painter who donated a major portion of his works to the museum in 1964.
“Great art is now built into the very physical fabric of the Buffalo AKG,” Cathleen Chaffee, the museum’s chief curator, said in a statement. “Our local community will find the great works of modern art they know best alongside never-before-seen recent acquisitions by leading contemporary artists.”
Meret Kelsey is the senior arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Meret Kelsey is an assistant arts editor at The Spectrum.