Bring back the Room of Contemporary Art

Cleveland is not so different from Buffalo, yet it’s hard to imagine either of these works in the Albright-Knox Gallery. While the museum has a history of acquiring conceptually adventurous work—as seen in Wish You Were Here: The Buffalo Avant-garde in the 1970s—the collection is light on art exploring sexuality, overt feminism, gender, or political activism, all of which gained momentum in that decade.

Thinking back to an earlier exhibition, The Long Curve: 150 Years of Visionary Collecting at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, I’m reminded of the Room of Contemporary Art, which for years functioned as a safe passage for challenging avant-garde entering the collection. Work that was initially too radical for Buffalo tastes was consigned to this room on a conditional status, bought with funds specifically donated for that purpose. Eventually the work quietly joined the permanent collection.

Maybe it’s time to resurrect the Room of Contemporary Art. Caution parents and the weak of heart, and fill the room with work by the Gorilla Girls, Andres Serrano, Valie Export, Marina Abramovic, Miru Kim, Joel-Peter Witkin, Tracey Emin, Jenny Saville, Chris Ofili, and other radical artists who play similar pivotal rolls in contemporary art.