Featuring 80 stellar paintings and sculptures by more than 70 artists from the late 19th century to the present, The Long Curve: 150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery kicked off a year-long celebration of the institution’s 150th anniversary. The first major exhibition of artwork from the museum’s collection organized to tour nationally, The Long Curve highlighted the history of the Albright-Knox’s extraordinary collection by focusing on the pioneering benefactors and museum professionals who made it possible.
Founded in 1862 as The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is among the oldest art museums in America and is celebrated for its longstanding commitment to collecting and exhibiting experimental art. From its inception, the Albright-Knox has been steadfast in its commitment to acquiring the art of its time and, as a result, is one of the first museums in the country to have collected and exhibited American and European modernism in the early years of the 20th century. At that time, and largely due to the foresight of museum benefactor A. Conger Goodyear—who donated more than 250 works over the course of nearly four decades and who, in 1929, went on to become the first board president of The Museum of Modern Art in New York—the institution began to acquire significant works by innovative artists. Many were prescient acquisitions of paintings and sculptures by Salvador Dalí, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and others.
In 1939, through the generosity of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., and his family, along with other kindred-minded community members, the Room of Contemporary Art Fund was established. This groundbreaking program was dedicated to the purchase of contemporary art and, over the next 15 years, enabled the museum to continue acquiring innovative artworks. Between 1955 and 1973, the synergistic partnership between Knox, Jr., and Director Gordon M. Smith propelled the acquisition of celebrated works of Abstract Expressionism, Color Field painting, Pop art, and Minimalism, for which the Albright-Knox is best known.
Legendary New York art dealer and Buffalo native Martha Jackson also shaped the Albright-Knox’s distinguished collection of mid-20th-century painting and sculpture through the establishment of The Martha Jackson Collection in 1974. Jackson had an unwavering commitment to the artists she represented. The Martha Jackson Gallery was dedicated to contemporary artists and “the development of international modern art in America.” Jackson actively sought a more global repertoire of artists and was one of the first commercial gallerists to represent women. In addition, she worked closely with the Albright-Knox and Knox, Jr., to bring the work of certain artists, including Sam Francis, Adolph Gottlieb, Grace Hartigan, Louise Nevelson, and Antoni Tàpies, into the Albright-Knox’s collection.
The exhibition moved into the present with a selection of works that highlight two recent gifts of modern and contemporary art. In 2003, Santa Fe–based collectors Natalie and Irving Forman donated more than 90 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper to the Albright-Knox. Their collection, largely comprising monochromatic works by artists such as Joseph Marioni, David Simpson, and Florence Pierce, augments the Albright-Knox’s already significant holdings of abstract art by fleshing out key areas. Most recently, in 2008, the Albright-Knox acquired 71 works of art by 15 artists from the renowned collection of Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, through the generosity of the Panza Family and existing Albright-Knox funds. This diverse ensemble spans a 40-year period from the mid-1960s to the present and includes important works by Joseph Kosuth, Robert Therrien, and Anne Truitt. Selected from the recent exhibition The Panza Collection: An Experience of Color and Light, the Panza Collection at the Albright-Knox spoke to the Albright-Knox’s history, its preeminent collection of postwar American art, and Dr. Panza’s artist-centric vision and philanthropic largesse.
This exhibition was organized by Chief Curator Douglas Dreishpoon.