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Editorial: Jeffrey Gundlach's extraordinary generosity

Jeffrey Gundlach is the angel of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s expansion project.

The Buffalo-born billionaire showed his devotion back in September by contributing $42.5 million to the effort. It is the largest private individual donation to a cultural organization in Western New York history.

Now, unbelievably, he is talking about upping his own ante to make sure the gallery reaches its full potential.

What started out as an $80 million renovation project has turned into a transformative $155 million venture that has a $30 million funding gap. Gundlach is helping to figure out how to close the gap, even if it means he closes some of it himself: “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.”

Gundlach said he could see himself potentially donating more than $50 million by the time the campaign concludes. He and Albright-Knox Director Janné Siren have discussed a matching campaign that would seek assistance from national foundations, without revealing which ones they have in mind. Finding another $30 million to add to the $125 million already pledged seems like a big lift, but it should be noted that the original campaign seemed wildly optimistic when it was announced, then became wildly successful in the span of eight weeks a year ago.

The project includes $20 million in funding from city, county and state taxpayers as well as other private donors.

Gundlach’s generosity was certainly the catalyst for the gallery to think bigger. It stems from his memories of going to the gallery as a boy with his mother and grandmother, making for an incredible Buffalo story.

It also made the recent announcement of the project’s preliminary plans all the more breathtaking: glass walls, underground parking and the restoration of parkland.

He explained to News arts critic Colin Dabkowski his desire for the underground building; it gets the gallery closer to its goal of adding 50,000 square feet of exhibit space.

And then he summarized his thinking about the project: “If you only do an incremental change, it’s not worth it. The idea was to aim high.”

Thanks to Gundlach, that is exactly what is happening.

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