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  • Ray Monde

Why is the most extraordinary art museum in the United States in Buffalo, NY?

Artist Ray Monde at the AKG. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

Within the first months of the AKG’s reopening, 100,000 visitors came, close to the 125,000 the museum used to see in an entire year. Ray Monde was one. The Seattle-based Australian paper collage artist bought a plane ticket here just to see the “jewel box of amazing art” that he first happened upon two decades ago on a trip to Niagara Falls. Puzzled about his latest trip, friends asked, Why Buffalo?

“I said, ‘because there’s an extraordinary art museum,’” Monde recalled. “I just remember seeing the collection of the museum and was kind of astounded by how carefully curated it was and how many masterpieces were in this relatively small building…It was amazing to me that this city had so many.” He didn’t realize the museum had been expanded and transformed. “It’s so much better than I imagined,” said Monde. “It was the first thing we did when we got to town. We went straight to AKG. It was beautiful.”

That One, Deborah Roberts

The well-curated art still captured him. Classics hold court with the new. A Matisse pencil sketch of Notre Dame, Picasso’s “La Toilette” nude posing for a mirror, Andy Warhol’s “100 Cans” of Campbell’s Soup, Jackson Pollock’s “Convergence,” a white, black, red and blue paint splattered rebellion, share the space with thought-provoking recent works such as “Village Series,” a sculpture of a woman with a grass skirt by Simone Leigh and Nick Cave’s “Speak Louder,” with figures draped in bedazzled black fabric with horn shaped heads.

“This says to me that someone has really thoughtfully put together the collection to go, ‘We’re not going to rest on our laurels,’” Monde says. “The collage work by Deborah Roberts, I think is particularly important, especially with Black Lives Matter,” he said referring to “That One,” a 2018 collage of seated Black boys with sad, thoughtful, and hopeful looks. “For me it’s a real reconciliation of how we can live together.” The art of the buildings captured him, too. From the “Common Sky” glass canopy to the bridge where he spotted kids delighting in the “curvy adventure” walk between the Gundlach and Wilmers Buildings. The architecture, he said, was as well curated as the art.

PUBLISHED ON MARCH 27, 2024 | LAST UPDATED APRIL 15, 2024 Excerpt from Visit Buffalo NY

Village Series, Simone Leigh

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