Looking at WNY’s visual art, theater, music, and dance scenes.
Jun 14, 2012
10:33 AMTalk about Arts
Grachos to leave Albright-Knox
As of January 1, 2013, Louis Grachos will no longer be the director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. He will be taking up a new position as executive director of a merged entity in Austin, Texas. The Art Museum of Austin, a modern/contemporary museum, and Arthouse, a contemporary art center with no permanent collection, are joining forces there—Grachos will be the leader of AMOA-Arthouse. The new appointment puts Grachos in charge of a 12-acre historic museum facility (Luguna Gloria), and a newly renovated downtown site (Jones Center) in Austin.
The announcement is surprising, as most such announcements are, but not shocking. Grachos has been at the AKAG since December, 2002, and will have been director ten years before he leaves the institution. It is a respectable amount of time to spend at a museum, and he’s helped the AKAG make considerable strides.
In our view, the dynamic reinstallations of the permanent collection, two major donations, and a greatly expanded outreach to the Western New York community are among the most important accomplishments to Grachos’s credit. Under his leadership, the museum opened to the public for free on Friday evenings, offering a wide array of exciting, fun programming. Two important bodies of work—donated, respectively, by Italian collector Guiseppe Panza and American collectors Natale and Irving Forman—have greatly added to the museum’s holdings in the areas of Minimal and Conceptual artwork. And exhibitions such as Extreme Abstraction, Videosphere, and the ongoing Remix have demonstrated the incredible depth of the museum’s holdings in contemporary art.
Grachos also calmly and successfully steered the museum through a controversial deaccessioning process, coming out the other side with renewed funding for the acquisition of contemporary art.
Spree art critic Bruce Adams comments on the departure as follows: "Louis Grachos shook the Albright-Knox out of a long self-induced coma of complacency. He found new ways to engage the public, including the local art community; he enhanced the existing collection with smart acquisitions, and he led the museum in mounting exciting exhibitions at a time of reduced funding. He is a forward-looking activist willing to imagine what might be."
The largely unknown depths of the AKAG's collection present the biggest challenges for Grachos’s successor. The Albright-Knox really needs to find a way to showcase more of its collection to the Western New York public and out-of-town visitors, but expansion in its current location is problematic. Expansion in some form, however, is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, the true value of the AKAG as an institution with international stature will never be fully realized.
The photo at top accompanied Spree's first story on Grachos in March, 2003.