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Albright-Knox Breaks Ground on Historic AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project

Institution Will Become the Buffalo AKG Art Museum Upon Reopening

Friday, November 22, 2019

Buffalo, NY – Today, leaders at the Albright-Knox, along with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and other elected officials, broke ground on the museum’s historic AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project.

Jeffrey Gundlach, Buffalo native and leading donor to the AK360 project, announced an additional gift of $10 million towards the AK360 Capital Campaign, bringing his total gift to $62.5 million. He also announced that the bridge that will connect the new addition to the museum’s historic buildings will be named in honor of John J. Albright, one of the founders of the museum.

Albright-Knox Board President Alice Jacobs announced that the museum’s buildings will be named in honor of individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the institution’s past and future. The signature new building that will be added to the north end of the museum’s campus will be named in honor of Jeffrey Gundlach, whose transformative gifts helped the museum raise more than $100 million during the summer of 2016. The museum’s neoclassical building will be named in honor of Robert and Elisabeth Wilmers. Mr. Wilmers, longtime Chairman and CEO of M&T Bank, passed away in 2017. At the time of his death, Mr. Wilmers served as Chair of the AK360 Capital Campaign, and it was under his leadership that the museum made unprecedented progress toward its fundraising goal. The museum’s modernist building, designed by Gordon Bunshaft and completed in 1962, will be named in honor of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., and the Knox family. The construction of the building was funded in large part by the Knox Foundation and Mr. Knox, whose tenure as Board President fueled one of the most intense periods of growth for the museum’s renowned collection of modern and contemporary art.

When the museum reopens in 2022, it will be known as the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. Ms. Jacobs provided a brief look at a new brand identity that will be fully implemented upon reopening. For the new identity, the museum has partnered with graphic design studio Wkshps in collaboration with Once-Future Office. Both studios are focused on art, architecture, education, and culture, and feature a generous, workshop-based approach to engage more meaningfully with audiences. Working closely with the museum’s architectural partners at OMA, they are also designing the new Buffalo AKG Art Museum’s signage and wayfinding.

The new identity is unmistakably contemporary but rooted in the museum’s history. It features a custom typeface by Christian Schwartz from Commercial Type and a flexible, punctuation-based system meant to invite a continuing conversation with the diverse communities the museum serves. Ms. Jacobs shared a video created by Wkshps as a preview of the new identity, which can be viewed at www.albrightknox.org/akgidentity.

“The Albright-Knox has a long tradition of honoring the visionary philanthropists who guided this institution, all of whom have embraced the pursuit of the new, the groundbreaking and the beautiful,” said Alice Jacobs, Albright-Knox Board President. “Today, I am privileged to share that we continue this tradition with the new name, the Buffalo Albright-Knox-Gundlach Art Museum, to be known as the Buffalo AKG. My heartfelt thanks to Jeffrey Gundlach, whose transformational gift allowed us to realize a vision for the campus as inspiring as the art it will house. I would also like to thank the entire Board of Directors for their tireless work in bringing us to this moment, as well as Shohei Shigematsu, a brilliant artist and architectural partner.”

"The expansion of the Albright-Knox will provide a significant boost for Buffalo’s future and is proudly supported with funding from New York State," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The new Buffalo AKG Art Museum will be part of the continuing transformation taking place across Buffalo and Western New York. Arts and cultural institutions are drivers of economic development and tourism, and this project will support the ongoing revitalization of the entire region."​

“We are absolutely thrilled with the incredible work of Shohei Shigematsu and OMA, as well as the innovative and beautiful Common sky by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann of Studio Other Spaces,” said Michael Joseph, Chair of the AK360 Project Committee. “These signature works will be added to Buffalo’s rich architectural legacy and will complement the natural beauty of the Olmsted Park System that borders the museum’s campus. I would like to thank the entire AK360 Project Committee for their hard work in getting to this point and we look forward to the opening of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum.”

“The AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project will change the cultural landscape of Buffalo and the surrounding area for generations to come,” said Janne Sirén, Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director of the Albright-Knox. “The Buffalo AKG Art Museum will be a world-class space for all to enjoy, with 30,000 square feet of new exhibition space, a wing dedicated to education and community engagement, and state-of-the-art visitor amenities. Shohei Shigematsu’s stunning design and Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann’s masterpiece above our new Indoor Town Square promise to transform the museum into a national landmark and a globally recognized destination. We are thrilled to begin the construction phase of this important project and look forward to welcoming the world to Buffalo in 2022.”

“The Buffalo AKG Art Museum will provide much needed space for the institution's great collection. It is designed to enhance connections between art and people, park and museum, and existing and new,” said Shohei Shigematsu, Partner, OMA. “Its porosity and transparency evoke the museum's openness and ambition to be first and foremost a place for the community. I would like to thank Janne and his team, as well as the Board of Directors and the AK360 Project Committee for their vision, support, and collaboration. We are thrilled to contribute to the rich architectural history of Buffalo, which would not have been possible without an ongoing dialogue with the local communities and constituencies.”

“Today marks a major step forward for the AK360 project, which will transform Buffalo’s cherished institution into a renowned cultural landmark,” said William Gilbane III, Senior Vice President - New York Division Leader, Gilbane Building Company. “Gilbane is proud to work with the Albright-Knox and to lend our expertise as a museum builder to one of the largest cultural projects in the proud history of Western New York. We look forward to working with a local and inclusive workforce to deliver this project with the same high standards that have come to define Gilbane’s work in New York and across the country.”

“The Albright-Knox Art Gallery plays a vital role in New York’s cultural landscape and is a beacon for tourism in Western New York,” said Mara Manus, Executive Director of the New York State Council on the Arts. “The new Buffalo AKG Art Museum will be transformational to the city of Buffalo, the region, and the state, building on the museum’s globally recognized collection with spectacular new architecture that is sure to become an iconic image of Buffalo.”

For more than a decade the Albright-Knox has explored the possibility of expanding and upgrading its facilities. These enhancements are urgently needed to properly house the museum’s growing collection of modern and contemporary masterworks, mount rotating special exhibitions, and present a dynamic array of complementary educational programs. In 2014, the museum’s Board of Directors unanimously resolved to launch its ambitious AK360 Campus Development and Expansion Project.

AK360 is intimately tied to Buffalo’s twenty-first-century renaissance. The name of the project reflects the fact that this will be the third time the museum has grown in the course of its history, each time at intervals of approximately 60 years (in 1905 with its first permanent home and in 1962 with its last expansion). The name also represents the museum’s response to feedback from the community and its goal to take a 360-degree view of its growth that goes far beyond operational needs and embraces its unique position in the region and its potential to contribute to Western New York’s ongoing resurgence.

The project will more than double the number of works the museum can display at any given time, including adding state-of-the-art space for presenting special exhibitions. It will also radically enhance the visitor experience at the museum, creating more space for education, dining, and social activities, while better integrating the campus with the landscape of Frederick Law Olmsted’s Delaware Park.

In June 2016, the Albright-Knox announced its selection of the award-winning firm OMA/Shohei Shigematsu as its architectural design partner. That same month, the AK360 Capital Campaign, the financial cornerstone of AK360, took a giant leap forward with an unprecedented matching challenge made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Jeffrey Gundlach.

What unfolded next is remarkable. Believing that the Albright-Knox and the City of Buffalo are worthy investments and catalyzed by a promise of $42.5 million from Mr. Gundlach if matching funds could be secured by Labor Day, foundations, government entities, corporations, and individuals from across the region rose to the occasion. In just twelve short weeks, the museum raised an unprecedented $103 million toward its goal. In late 2017, Mr. Gundlach announced a second challenge to build on the success of the first, matching all gifts received through the end of 2018, up to $10 million, dollar for dollar. In January 2019, the museum announced that it had met—and exceeded—this challenge.

In June 2018 the museum announced its plan to create a new work of signature architecture on the north end of the museum’s campus, which will add 30,000 square feet of space for special exhibitions and the museum’s world-renowned art collection. The new building will also incorporate several visitor amenities and is envisioned to have a wraparound promenade that visually connects the interior of the building with the surrounding Frederick Law Olmsted landscape.

In addition to adding to Buffalo’s remarkable architectural legacy, the museum aspires to improve its campus by:

  • Building an underground parking structure and transforming the surface parking lot into a vibrant green landscape and gathering place
  • Opening a route through the museum from Elmwood Avenue to Olmsted’s Delaware Park, adding a new point of entry and exit on the east façade of the museum’s 1962 Building
  • Covering the 1962 Building’s open-air Sculpture Garden to create an Indoor Town Square, a new space for year-round civic engagement, open free of charge to the community during museum and program hours
  • Creating a new education wing in the lower level of the 1962 Building
  • Constructing a signature scenic bridge that connects the new north building with the 1905 Building

In April 2019, the museum announced that artist Olafur Eliasson and architect Sebastian Behmann, founding partners of Studio Other Spaces, have proposed a breathtaking work of art to cover the Indoor Town Square. Entitled Common sky, the design is inspired by the seasons of Buffalo and the museum’s lush park surroundings. 

On November 4, 2019, the Albright-Knox's Elmwood Avenue campus closed for construction. Albright-Knox Northland, a new project space at 612 Northland Avenue, will open on January 17, 2020. The museum’s new Art Truck, a mobile center for hands-on artmaking, brings art activities, classes, and workshops for individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of ability into the communities of Western New York. An expanded Public Art Initiative will also continue to place world-class works of art throughout Buffalo and Erie County. The new Buffalo AKG Art Museum is expected to open in 2022 on the Elmwood Avenue campus. 

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