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Jeffrey Gundlach could give millions more to Albright-Knox expansion

Jeffrey Gundlach isn't done yet.

The Buffalo-born billionaire said Thursday that he potentially could donate millions more to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's expansion project to help it close a $30 million funding gap and meet the gallery's $155 million goal.

"It's certainly not impossible that I could help out some more," said Gundlach, whose contribution of $42.5 million to the gallery's expansion project already ranks as the largest private individual donation to a cultural organization in Western New York history. "We're not going to let this thing fall short by $5 million. It's just not going to happen. We'll figure out a way to get there."

The way to get there, Gundlach suggested, is likely to involve his signature on another check. He said he could potentially be on the hook for more than $50 million by the time the campaign has reached its goal.

Gundlach said that he has discussed the idea for a matching campaign aimed at national foundations to raise the rest of the money with Albright-Knox director Janne Sirén. It would be similar to the one that brought the Albright-Knox past its original goal of $80 million in the span of eight weeks last summer.

"He's a visionary," Siren said of Gundlach and his latest gesture of goodwill toward his native city. "Of course we at the Albright-Knox are thrilled with Jeffrey's extraordinary generosity and his unprecedented support."

That campaign, orchestrated to spur private donors and governments from Buffalo and beyond to dig deep to support the project, earned national attention for its speed and success.

Since that campaign was completed in September, the scope of the project has grown considerably, nearly doubling its budget from $80 million to $155 million. The budget includes $20 million in public funding from taxpayers in the City of Buffalo, Erie County and across New York State.

Preliminary plans for the size and shape of the expansion were revealed last week. They include two new buildings – one placed underground along the west side of the gallery and another floating between its two existing buildings – along with a vast public entry hall and the restoration of parkland over its current parking lot.

The underground building is something Gundlach said he was committed to, in part because it brings the gallery closer to its desired goal of adding 50,000 square feet of exhibit space.

"I've definitely been pushing for that. I just don't see the point of a half-step here," he said. "If you only do an incremental change, it's not worth it. The idea was to aim high."

Gundlach did not mention which national foundations his campaign is targeting, but he said he is confident that the gallery will meet its goal.

"We're pretty much on the cleanup phase of the fundraising," he said. "I can't give anything specific. I'm just saying that I've discussed with Janne the potential to match some other gifts."

email: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

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