BUFFALO, N.Y. — Art lovers have just a little over a month to visit Buffalo’s world-famous Albright-Knox Art Museum before it closes for two years for a massive expansion and renovation.
The $155 million "AK-360" Campus Development and Expansion, while promising to be an exciting part of the Queen City’s cultural scene for years to come, also left the Albright-Knox to seek out temporary digs for the duration of the contruction.
When leaders at the Albright-Knox first looked at a former factory building at 621 Northland Avenue, once part of the sprawling Houdaille manufacturing plant and abandoned for 40 years, they found a structure marked by graffiti, strewn with garbage, and ravaged by the elements that had an easy path in through the windows, just about all of which had been broken.
They also found it to be ideal for their plans for a temporary gallery of contemporary art.
This is it
“First of all is the scale of the room … it's about 130 feet long, 62 feet wide, 24 feet high," said Aaron Ott, Curator of Public Art at the Albright Knox, as he stood inside the area which will serve as the main exhibit space for Albright-Knox Northland.
“We have east facing and west facing frosted windows, and south facing clear windows, so we get this great light all day long so it really is an opportunity for artists to exhibit in a space that really shows and shines with their work."
When the first exhibit opens here in mid-January, the walls, pillars and ceiling will be bathed in fresh white paint, except for one brick wall along the rear of the gallery.
As work crews were busy on Thursday constructing what will become Albright-Knox Northland’s main entrance and parking area, Ott promised “we’re going to be ready, absolutely,” when asked if the facility is on target for its planned opening January 17, 2020.
“We will be working with contemporary artists to commission work or to loan work that's appropriate to this space, so it's a very different type of feel than what you might be familiar with at the Albright-Knox," Ott said.
One thing art lovers will not be able to see at Albright-Knox Northland are any of the famous masterpieces that have graced the walls of the Albright-Knox for years.
“They can’t be here because this building lacks the proper climate controls,” Ott explained. “It simply would not be safe for those works in our collection to come to this location."
Masterpieces that aren’t planned to be loaned out to other museums during the construction at the original Albright-Knox will be put into safe storage.
Interestingly, once the AK-360 project is completed, Albright-Knox Northland, much like the old Houdaille plant it was once part of, will fade into history.
The Albright-Knox has no plans to stay there beyond its three-year lease.
Although being completely renovated, it's not expected to be difficult for the building to find a new occupant and to be put to a new use.