With funding in hand, AK360 makes its public debut

Sep 28, 2016

With cash in hand years earlier than expected, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is moving ahead on the public process of designing its new space.

The gallery had expected to be raising money until 2020. When local native and hedge fund king Jeffrey Gundlach decided to kick in nearly $43 million to the drive, that pushed government and matching funds toward what is now a $125 million drive and turned the new building from a subject for discussion to a subject for design.

That is what last night's meeting was about: the first in a series for the public invited to come in and talk about the inside, the outside, the programs and how a new building would fit into Delaware Park. The expansion project is called AK360.

OMA Principal and Design Architect Shohei Shigematsu explains the expansion process to an audience at the Buffalo Convention Center.
Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

"This is a really rare, successful case where almost all the funding is in place even before you start," said OMA architect Shohei Shigematsu, who is leading the expansion design process. "Yes, we are ready to start and we feel quite secure about it because oftentimes the design comes first before the fundraising. You always have a slight level of anxiety that your design might not happen."

Gallery Director Janne Sirén said it is likely to be a year before a basic design and a site for the new building are settled on, with a lot of work after that before construction can start on the cultural landmark addition in the first half of 2019.

"We need more space to display one of the most magnificent collections of modern and contemporary art in the world. We also need to attend to our existing buildings. There's an urgent need to refurbish," he said. "This is not a contemporary art installation. This is what happens when it rains in Buffalo: the buckets come out."

Siren said there is also the problem of the cracking marble floors from age. The new building will add 30,000 square feet of exhibition space to the current 20,000, add educational space, add storage and even add a loading dock to make it easier and safer to move art in and out.