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Major Exhibition – The Long Curve: 150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery – Surveys One of America’s Foremost Collections, Opens November 4, 2011

September 22, 2011

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Buffalo, NY – The Long Curve: 150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will feature eighty iconic works by more than seventy-five artists from the late nineteenth century to the present, highlighting the history of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s extraordinary Collection, and the benefactors and museum professionals who made it possible.  Founded in 1862 as The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy (now the governing body of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery), it is among the oldest arts organizations in America and one of the most celebrated for its long-standing commitment to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art.  To complement and contextualize the exhibition, the Gallery will also present The Impermanent Collection: The Room of Contemporary Art, 1939–1971.  This installation tells the story of the Room of Contemporary Art, an untried approach to collecting art through which the Gallery was able to acquire, through purchase or gift, many bold and fearless works of its time—helping to create a reputation for which the museum is still known today.

Organized by Albright-Knox Chief Curator Douglas Dreishpoon, The Long Curve marks the beginning of the Gallery’s celebration of its 150th year.  The history of the Collection centers around several benefactors, each of whom possessed a compelling and prescient vision and a deep commitment to contemporary art.  Together, A. Conger Goodyear, Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Martha Jackson, and Natalie and Irving Forman donated more than 1,300 works to the Collection over the course of the last century and a half. Most recently, in 2008, the Gallery acquired seventy-one works of art by fifteen artists from the renowned collection of Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, through the generosity of the Panza Family and existing Gallery funds.

“This is a landmark exhibition of the Albright Knox’s Collection, one of the world’s most important modern and contemporary art collections,” Gallery Director Louis Grachos said.  “The development of the Collection, here in Buffalo, is an intriguing story of generosity and uncompromising vision.”

A. Conger Goodyear joined the Gallery’s Board of Directors in 1912.  A man of eclectic tastes, guided by connoisseurship, he pursued a collection of cutting-edge art over the course of forty years.  During his many years of service to the Gallery, and even after he left Buffalo, in 1926, to become the first president of the Board of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, he continued to donate work by such exceptional artists as Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dalí, Robert Delaunay, and Frida Kahlo, all of whom are represented in the exhibition. In his later years, Goodyear deferred to others to make sense of the postwar artistic landscape and the new work that poured forth from New York’s lofts and cold-water flats.

Seymour H. Knox, Jr., joined the Gallery’s board in 1925.  Later described as “the Dean of American Art Patrons,” Knox was a consistent advocate for contemporary American art.  His tenure on the Board, and his long-standing collaboration with Gallery Director Gordon M. Smith, gave rise to an intense period of visionary collecting, focused on “Masters of the Future,” that, to this day, represents one of the most significant periods of growth in the Gallery’s Collection.  Major works acquired during this time by postwar American artists Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Sam Francis, Jackson Pollock, Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler, and Lee Krasner will be included in the exhibition.

Many of Knox’s daring acquisitions were made possible through the able facilitation of New York art dealer and Buffalo native Martha Jackson, who graciously introduced Knox and Smith to many artists of the New York School.  “Art is a long curve,” Jackson told an interviewer in 1969, shortly before she died, referring to the inordinate amount of time it takes for experimental art to find an audience.  The nimble way in which Goodyear, and later, Knox, could make bold acquisitions of experimental art under such unpredictable circumstances was made possible by a radical initiative at the then Albright Art Gallery known as the Room of Contemporary Art. 

An installation entitled The Impermanent Collection: The Room of Contemporary Art, 1939–1971, organized by the Gallery’s Head of Research Resources Susana Tejada, will present original letters, photographs, publications, and other documents drawn from the Gallery Archives that will help museum visitors understand the significant role the Room of Contemporary Art played in the history and development of the Collection.

Described as “a meeting place between the artist and the public,” the Room of Contemporary Art was established in 1939 with the express purpose of bringing new art to Buffalo.  Selections were shown at the Gallery in rotating “exhibitions” placed in a dedicated public space that was designed to feel much like a domestic living room.  The public was invited to relax and feel at home with the cutting-edge art installed there.  Visitors were encouraged during the first three weeks of the Room’s opening literally to cast their votes for the art on view.  Ballots were tallied, for both Gallery visitors and staff, for first, second, and third favorites. 

Works in the Room were brought in “on probation,” and, if any of them failed to live up to expectations, they could be exchanged or sold.  Objects carefully chosen for retention became valuable additions to the Gallery’s Collection.  These purchases were made possible through a special fund set aside for this purpose and financed principally through a sizeable gift given by the Knox Family and seventeen other individuals. The Room functioned until 1971, circumventing institutional protocol and allowing one of America’s great art collections to prosper in Buffalo.

The Long Curve: 150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery also includes work by Joseph Kosuth, Robert Therrien, Anne Truitt, John Beech, and Florence Pierce that have entered the Collection in more recent years as part of significant gifts to the Collection by renowned collectors Count Giuseppe Panza Di Biumo (gifts and acquisitions), and Natalie and Irving Forman.

The exhibition, which is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published in association with Skira Editore, Milan, will remain on view until March 4, 2012.

This exhibition is presented by First Niagara. First Niagara Financial Group, Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiary First Niagara Bank, N.A., has $31 billion in assets, $19 billion in deposits, 346 branches and approximately 5,000 employees, as of June 30, 2011. First Niagara is a community-oriented bank providing financial services to individuals, families and businesses across Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. For more information visit www.fnfg.com.

Support for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s Collection-based exhibitions and installations is generously provided, in part, by Peggy Pierce Elfvin; The Seymour H. Knox Foundation, Inc.; The John R. Oishei Foundation; and The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation.

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Press Images

The images below are available for use by the media. For high-resolution versions of these images, please contact Jim Baker at 716.270.8320, or Maria Scully-Morreale at 716.270.8229.