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Janne Sirén Will Become Next Director of Albright-Knox Art Gallery

January 14, 2013

Dr. Janne Sirén at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, with Clyfford Still’s October 1950, 1950 (Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Gift of the artist, 1964). Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Buffalo, NY – The Albright-Knox Art Gallery announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed Dr. Janne Sirén its eleventh Director. Dr. Sirén is the first director from the Nordic region to take the helm of a major American art museum. Speaking about the appointment, Albright-Knox Board President Leslie Zemsky said, “We are delighted Janne will be coming here to lead the Albright-Knox, and I know he is as excited as we are. He is an impressive scholar and visionary administrator who is able to embrace and connect local, national, and global stages in a relevant and viable way. He brings extensive experience and knowledge to the Albright-Knox in all areas of programming and also a passion for the Gallery’s growth and development. Janne is an extraordinary leader, and he shares our vision for the active role of the Albright-Knox in the growth and vitality of our community. He has a wealth of experience in promoting economic development and growth through cultural tourism, which is such a high priority for us here at the Gallery and in the Buffalo Niagara region.”

The Albright-Knox hired Russell Reynolds Associates to conduct a global search for its next director. The firm worked closely with a Search Committee from the museum’s Board of Directors, chaired by Thomas R. Hyde. Speaking about the search, Hyde noted, “Our search process was exhaustive and thorough. Dr. Sirén’s impeccable credentials and outstanding scholarship, combined with his extensive experience as a museum director and a civic leader on both national and international levels, make him an outstanding choice to lead the Gallery into the future. Our Board’s vote on the appointment was enthusiastic and unanimous.”

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery was founded in Buffalo in 1862. The museum’s 150-year record of collecting, conserving, and exhibiting the art of its time has resulted in one of the world’s finest collections of contemporary and modern art. Internationally recognized as one of the leading museums in the United States, the Albright-Knox continues to add cutting-edge works to its collections and annually presents a program comprised of exceptional exhibitions, publications, and collaborations. In the Buffalo Niagara region, the museum is a cultural beacon and magnet for cultural tourism.

Dr. Sirén was in Buffalo today for the announcement. He said, “I am inspired by Buffalo’s aspirations, and by the Albright-Knox’s desire to continue to play a leading role on regional, national, and international stages. The Albright-Knox’s legacy of visionary collection development, its artist-centric approach and ability to institutionally reinvent itself over time, is extraordinary. It is a privilege to sustain and carry forward such a tradition in a museum that is firmly anchored to its own urban context and history. At the same time, the Albright-Knox embraces pioneering developments in the visual arts on a globally resonant level and scale. The opportunity to serve the local Buffalo community, and simultaneously the broader transnational art world, is tremendously exciting.” On his prospective move to the United States, he noted, “Moving back to the United States is for me a return home, a return to my intellectual and cultural roots. I very much look forward to building the future of this national treasure here in Buffalo, which strikes me as the friendliest place on the planet.” Speaking about plans for the Gallery’s future, Dr. Sirén said, “I look forward to collaborating with the Board of Directors and staff when I arrive in Buffalo Niagara. We will all be working very closely together to develop our plans for the future, and I look forward to keeping everyone up to date on our progress.”

Dr. Sirén is currently Director of the Helsinki Art Museum, Finland. The Helsinki Art Museum is a museum of contemporary and modern art with a collection of 8,900 works stretching back to the late nineteenth century. The Museum operates two exhibition spaces in the heart of Helsinki: Tennis Palace and Kluuvi Gallery, an innovative gallery space focused on showcasing experimental works by emerging Finnish artists. The Museum also oversees and prepares the municipal strategies for the City of Helsinki’s visual arts policies and manages the capital’s public art programs. Presenting a range of exhibitions every year, the Museum is international in scope and frequently collaborates with arts organizations throughout the world. The Helsinki Art Museum has an annual budget of $8.8 million, with sixty-seven permanent employees and an additional forty to sixty part-time employees.

Dr. Sirén has overseen the organization of several major international exhibitions, including Georgia O’Keeffe; Georg Baselitz: Remix; Enchanting Beauty: Masterpieces from the Collections of the State Tretyakov Gallery; Surrealism and Beyond: Masterpieces from the Israel Museum; Defiance and Melancholy—German Painting from the Dresden Albertinum/Galerie Neue Meister; and Helsinki School—Photography and Video Now.

Under the direction of Dr. Sirén, the Helsinki Art Museum has worked with partners around the globe, including some of the world’s largest art institutions. Over the past several years, Dr. Sirén and his team have introduced several new initiatives in museum education, programming, and, most notably, visual literacy as an emerging twenty-first-century intellectual asset. These initiatives have defined the art museum as a socially relevant space.

Speaking about Dr. Sirén’s prospective appointment, Deputy Mayor for Culture, Education and Personnel Affairs in the City of Helsinki, Ritva Viljanen, said, “It is a great honor for the City of Helsinki and its cultural sector that the director of the Helsinki Art Museum has been appointed director of a major art museum in the United States. Finnish architects, designers, and conductors—supported by our superb educational system—are known globally for their achievements. The fact that museum directors, curators, and visual artists are also pursuing international careers in a competitive market is indicative of Finland’s cultural dynamism and diversity. We will miss Janne, but he will no doubt continue building cultural bridges also in Buffalo.”

Dr. Sirén holds a B.A. degree in Art History from the College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA). He received his M.A., and Ph.D., also in the field of Art History, from New York University’s renowned Institute of Fine Arts.

The Albright-Knox currently anticipates that Dr. Sirén will assume his position in late spring or early summer. Interim Director Karen Lee Spaulding will continue to serve in this role until Dr. Sirén arrives in Buffalo Niagara. He will reside in the region with his family.

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