Acquiring and Exhibiting Art of the Present

Buffalo is home to one of the leading American contemporary and modern art collections? Really? Well: IT IS! And it is called The Albright Knox Art Gallery. And it is incredible. I don't think I've ever seen a collection quite like this...only being rivaled by the Tate Modern in my mind! I hate enumerating the works that they have (Emin to Chagall, LeWitt to van Gogh) but at every single turn was another breathtaking, (literal) masterpiece, hanging or sitting in a way that was not only compelling but that also seamlessly flowed through the building- at no point did anything look out of place or jarring or forgotten in a lonely corner of dead space! I scoured the internet for information on the original namesake of this collection, John J. Albright, but the more and more I read about him & the museum the more sprawling and interesting the story seems to get...!

The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, one of the oldest public art institutions in America, set out to develop a space to exhibit art work. The museum was intended to be part of the World's Fair (!!!!!) Pan-American Exhibition (you know! the one that took place in Buffalo in 1901? where McKinley was shot! And Tesla's AC current brought electric light in its infancy! And Edison debuted the X-ray machine! Why don't we have World's Fairs in this country anymore people!?) but it wasn't completed by the time it rolled around...? Albright, who hailed from Pennsylvania where he got mixed up in the coal business and then went on to become a wealthy industrialist acting on behalf of steel companies and the like, funded a big portion of the museum's completion and later, Seymour H. Knox Jr., heir to the Woolworth's empire and art enthusiast, funded an expansion of the space which now bears his name too. The American history of this space alone makes it such an interesting and inspiring place, the nexus for a new era in the American Dream- art! electricity! culture!

I can't imagine being alive in the beginning of the 20th century to watch as progress unfolded in such strange ways and horizons were being expanded on a daily basis...it's so weird to think that we are sort of on the cusp of the same sort of era, of the fast pace of technology, the abundance of change. One can only hope that we, as a country, keep in mind the need for an openess in ideas that lead to things like the establishment of progressive art institutions and electric light, manifestations of the things that our country was founded on: a feeling of infinite possibility, freedoms and progress, feelings and rights that have become so skewed with each Republican primary debate I bear witness to...roar....I know what would fix this: a World's Fair!

 

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