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Buffalo commits $2.5 million to Albright-Knox's expansion

Plans to expand the Albright-Knox Art Gallery received a $2.5 million boost Monday from the City of Buffalo.

Mayor Byron W. Brown announced the city contribution as the deadline approaches to secure up to $10 million in matching funds from Buffalo-born billionaire investor Jeffrey Gundlach.

Gundlach in November 2017 pledged an additional $10 million on top of his historic gift of $42.5 million toward the gallery’s expansion. Gundlach structured his follow-up donation so that he will match all the money raised by the gallery in 2018, up to $10 million. Like Gundlach’s original gift, the pledge is designed to motivate others to support the gallery’s expansion project.

Janne Siren, the museum's director, declined to say how much money has been raised by the AK360 fundraising campaign this year. But Siren said he was optimistic more money will come in before the new year in an attempt to take full advantage of Gundlach's offer.

"With the help of Mayor Brown, his administration and his team and the city of Buffalo Common Council, the Albright-Knox will be able to create a community gathering place brimming with opportunities for inspiration for all citizens of Buffalo, and the many visitors to our region," Siren said in introducing the mayor for the announcement.

Some of the city funds are expected to be used toward infrastructure improvements that support the museum's expansion.

The city has teamed with the art museum on a number of art initiatives, and it sets aside annual funds to help pay for a curator position for public art.

A rendering shows a new mirrored and clear glass roof created by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery's current courtyard. (Image via Albright-Knox Art Gallery)

The expansion plans from Shohei Shigematsu, of the Dutch firm Office of Metropolitan Architecture, has a lot of parts to it.

The design calls for doubling the amount of prime viewing space and improving logistics for moving art, creating an educational wing with classrooms and work spaces and restoring two acres of green space by burying the parking lot.

The sculpture garden in the 1962 Gordon Bunshaft building would be converted to a gathering spot and pass-through to Delaware Park, while and the 1905 E.B. Green building's long-ago demolished west staircase would be re-established.

The gallery is expected to be renamed the Buffalo Albright-Knox Gundlach Art Museum, or Buffalo AKG Art Museum, in 2021 after the projected completion of the $155 million project.

Gundlach, in an email to The Buffalo News in 2017, said the additional $10 million pledge was designed to “help realize the courageous expansion of the project’s vision.”

“The Buffalo of today is not the Buffalo of recent decades past,” he said in the email. “The Buffalo of today has pride and economic momentum. The Buffalo of today can and should stand on its own two feet, even if it needs a little assistance getting there from time-to-time.”

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