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Albright-Knox to Debut Major Commission Western New Yorkers Helped to Create

November 28, 2012

Buffalo, NY – The Albright-Knox Art Gallery will cap off its 150th anniversary with a special week of celebration, beginning on December 4, the date of its founding 150 years ago. The highlight of the week will be the opportunity to view an exciting new addition to the Gallery’s Collection, Universals Albright-Knox 150 (UN.0201–UN.0350), created by the artists Eric and Heather ChanSchatz with the participation of 150 Western New Yorkers. The Gallery will offer free admission and extended hours from December 4 through December 7. The artists will talk about this special commission with Albright-Knox Curator for the Collection Holly E. Hughes during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY on December 7 at 7 pm. Speaking about the project, Hughes has commented, “Inviting Eric and Heather ChanSchatz to create this work of art has been an extraordinary experience for the museum, its staff, and, ideally, the project participants. Universals Albright-Knox 150 resonates on a multitude of levels: first and foremost, as a work of art that explores the future of abstraction and the Gallery’s role within this important facet of art history. Additionally, it has provided us with a significant and unique engagement with the Western New York community. And, moreover, the project has provided an outlet for the artists to further their multilayered practice and explore the perception and role of art within today’s contemporary society through institutional mediation.”

In April 2012, the Albright-Knox invited the community to participate in the creation of an artwork to celebrate the Gallery’s 150th anniversary. Monumental in scale, yet intimate in subject matter, the work was specifically envisioned to directly involve the Western New York community. Individuals who wanted to be part of the project were invited to enter their name into a lottery drawing, and, on April 25, 150 participants and 50 alternates were selected. By interacting with the artists in ChanSchatz’s site-specific event artwork—involving a questionnaire designed for each guest—and participating in a one-on-one conversation with the artists, each participant became a part of the work, which is conceived to embody the role an organization like the Albright-Knox seeks to fulfill in society and contemporary culture. The completed installation of Universals Albright-Knox 150 comprises 150 unique, hand-painted works—one to represent each participant. The artists have commented that they situate their practice and define their artwork by creating projects such as this one, which brings together “the museum, the community, and artistic methodology in a context of participation, exchange, and collective creation.” The work will be on view at the Gallery starting on December 4 to celebrate the Gallery’s Founders’ Week. The exhibition will also be accompanied by a video installation created by ChanSchatz that incorporates footage of their meetings with participants.

Universals Albright-Knox 150 is part of a two-part creative endeavor with Eric and Heather ChanSchatz. In 2014, the Gallery will reveal a large-scale sculpture by the artists, based on the imagery developed through the project, in a major exhibition that further explores the Universals project.

About the Artists

Eric and Heather ChanSchatz (American, born 1968) are artists who have been collaborating through a creative process that marries traditional approaches to artmaking, such as painting and sculpture, with socially engaged and event-based practices. They create artworks based on their interaction with the public and invited participants through a process they have explored and developed over the past fifteen years.

The artists base their work on their signature visual language and research-based methodologies. Themes such as identity, communal relationships, and socio-political networks are referenced throughout their creative process and ultimately form the foundation of each of their final works of art.

Eric and Heather ChanSchatz have engaged in series of projects, working on-site with communities including American soldiers stationed in Iraq, coal miners in Pennsylvania, participants in the Egyptian revolution in Cairo, stateless children in Thailand, and the Millennials youth generation. Such interactions typically span several years and have taken place internationally, from New York to the Middle East. 

The artists have created participatory, event-based performances and site-specific projects at the Swiss Institute in New York; the Austrian Cultural Forum New York; the Saatchi Gallery in London; the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio; the Robert J. Shiffler Foundation in Dayton, Ohio; and Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut. 

Their projects have been exhibited in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver; Albion in London; the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; and the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Eric and Heather ChanSchatz live and work in New York City.

Please visit for news and updates about the project and Founders’ Week at the Gallery.