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The Impermanent Collection: The Room of Contemporary Art, 1939–1971

Friday, November 4, 2011–Sunday, March 4, 2012

Installation view of the Room of Contemporary Art, Albright Art Gallery, 1939. Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery Archives.

"This room means the resurrection of the Gallery."
– A. Conger Goodyear

On View in the 1905 Albright Building

On January 4, 1939, more than two hundred guests gathered at Buffalo’s Albright Art Gallery, as the museum was then known, to witness firsthand the civic unveiling of the Room of Contemporary Art. Functioning as someplace more than simply an exhibition space, the Room was conceived with the primary aim to present “a new opportunity to see and appraise, to study and understand, what the modern artist is accomplishing.”[1]

By physically altering the area comprising what was once Gallery 4, and, in turn, by reinvigorating it, the champions of the Room transformed it into a site that would be devoted solely to the continuous but rotating presentation of new art. What is more, it would also serve as an experimental venue where the museum’s collecting strategy would be forever reenvisioned and reaffirmed. All told, the establishment of the Room took on epic significance, whereby, in one bold act, the once “stagnant” Albright Art Gallery was “resurrected,”[2] and the museum placed irrefutably “by right and its own pictures in the very frontline of modern collections”[3]—a reputation it upholds to this day.

This installation of original letters, photographs, publications, and other documents drawn from the Gallery Archives tells the story of the Room of Contemporary Art. More broadly, it celebrates the individuals who contributed to the advancement of the radical aspirations set forth in its formation and, most importantly, it calls attention to the many “daring” and “fearless” acquisitions that eventually entered the Gallery’s Collection via the aegis of the Room through purchase or gift.

This exhibition is organized by Head of Research Resources Susana Tejada.

This exhibition is presented by First Niagara.

Additional support has been provided by Agnes Gund.

Gallery admission is required to view this special exhibition on M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY. 


Related Resources

 
The Long Curve Search
This web component of The Long Curve contains many details about the donors’ gifts in their entirety. Search for specific works or browse works by collector. 

The Room of Contemporary Art on Flickr
Visit the Albright-Knox’s Flickr page to view a set of artworks and, in the spirit of the Room of Contemporary Art, vote for your favorites and share your opinions.


Related Publications

 
Exhibition Catalogue: The Long Curve: 150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery


Related Exhibitions

 
The Long Curve:
150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

November 4, 2011–March 4, 2012

Living Art: A. Conger Goodyear and Sculpture
November 4, 2011–March 4, 2012


Related Events

 
The 150th Anniversary Gala
Saturday, November 5, 2011, 6:30 pm

Art'scool Educators' Preview
Wednesday, November 9, 2011, 3–6 pm 

Members' Reception
Thursday, November 17, 2011, 5–7 pm


Related News

 
150 years later, Albright-Knox is still hungry for the new (The Buffalo News)


1. A. Conger Goodyear, foreword in The Room of Contemporary Art (Buffalo, NY: Albright Art Gallery, 1939).
 
2. “‘This room means the resurrection of the gallery,’ asserted Mr. A. Conger Goodyear, president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and a connoisseur of contemporary painting and sculpture. Goodyear continued, ‘The Gallery had been stagnant before this gift and the arrival of Mr. [Gordon] Washburn.’” “Civic Leaders Loud in Praise of Gallery Gift,” Buffalo Evening News, January 5, 1939. Scrapbooks, Collection Albright-Knox Gallery Archives.
 
3. Letter from Philip J. Wickser to Gordon Washburn, June 27, 1939, AK2.5, Box 38/Folder 11, Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery Archives.