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Then & Now: Albright-KnoxArtGallery
The Knox family, who made their fortune in the five and dime business, specifically the F.W. Woolworth Company, were one of many early supporters of the gallery that now bears their name. Seymour Knox II gave an endowment in 1939 for a room of contemporary art. Later, in 1962, the family funded a new wing of the gallery, designed by architect Gordon Bunshaft.
The gallery traces its beginnings back to 1862, when it was founded as the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, one of the oldest public art institutions in the nation. The gallery’s Greek Revival building, designed by noted Buffalo architect Edward B. Green, was built with funds provided by Buffalo Philanthropist, John J. Albright. The original intent was to have the AlbrightArtGallery serve as the Fine Arts Pavilion during the 1901 Pan American Exposition. However, that was not to be, as the building wasn’t completed until 1905.
Early curators collected popular art of the day, including French Impressionist works and contemporary German paintings. A. Conger Goodyear, a Buffalo industrialist and art collector, established a fund in 1926 that allowed the gallery to feature shows by Rodin and Noguchi and acquire a number of significant works, including Picasso’s La Toilette. An interesting tidbit of museum history is that the director from 1910-1924 was Mrs. Cornelia Bentley Sage Quinton, the first woman director of a major museum.
During the 1960’s, the gallery, now known as the Albright-KnoxArtGallery, acquired many significant works for its expanded gallery. It was a running joke in the local art community that many of these works were so new and contemporary that the paint was still wet!
Keeping with its long tradition of taking bold risks in acquiring contemporary art of the time, the gallery continues with its mission to acquire works from both established, as well as emerging contemporary artists, and to exhibit and preserve those works. In addition, the museum has brought many important traveling exhibits to Buffalo in recent years, including Monet, Tissot, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
The gallery identifies, nurtures, and supports local artists through its involvement in the regional biennial exhibit, Beyond/In WNY, which features the work of over 50 local artists at the Albright-Knox and other local galleries.
A visit wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Gallery Shop which carries art books, gifts, educational toys and more. Why not make a day of it and stop by the Muse restaurant for light fare, such as soups, paninis and salads, and desserts.
If you go
AlbrightKnoxArtGallery, 1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo 716-882-8700, www.albrightknox.org