Founded officially in December 1862, The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy is among the country's oldest public arts institutions, sharing that distinction with the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford; and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, among others. At the turn of that century, John J. Albright set this institution on its course by donating funds for a new building. With Edward B. Green as its architect, the Greek revival structure that became the permanent home for the Albright Art Gallery was dedicated on May 31, 1905.
During the middle years of the century, Seymour H. Knox, Jr., became the Gallery's most influential supporter, not only making possible the building of a new addition designed by Gordon Bunshaft, but also amassing a brilliant collection of artworks. The group of nearly seven hundred works collected during this time still represents the most intense period of growth for the Gallery's Collection, a result of Mr. Knox's daring spirit, discerning judgment, and the unique partnership and vision he shared with Director Gordon M. Smith. The new wing that was dedicated in 1962, one hundred years after the founding of the Academy, stands as a testament to Mr. Knox and his vision; his generosity was reflected in the institution’s adoption of a new name, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
The Gallery's 150-year tradition of collecting, conserving, and exhibiting the art of its time has given rise to one of the world’s most extraordinary art collections, including such renowned works as Pablo Picasso's La Toilette, 1906, acquired in 1926; Joan Miró’s Carnival of Harlequin, 1924–25, acquired in 1940; Willem de Kooning’s Gotham News, 1955, acquired in 1955; and Arshile Gorky’s The Liver Is the Cock’s Comb, 1944, acquired in 1956.
The Gallery has continued to add cutting-edge contemporary art to its Collection, adding major works in recent years by such artists as Matthew Barney, Mark Bradford, Tara Donovan, Teresita Fernandez, Liam Gillick, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Mona Hatoum, Jim Lambie, Catherine Opie, Jorge Pardo, Jennifer Steinkamp, and Philip Taaffe. Under the guidance of former Gallery Director Louis Grachos, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in conjunction with the Carnegie Museum of Art, became the first museum to jointly acquire a major, large-scale contemporary work—Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (Domestic), 2002.
Visiting the Gallery today promises unexpected surprises. Constantly changing installations and special exhibitions pair contemporary art with the masterworks of modernism, always inviting a reexamination of the old with the new in innovative and exciting ways.