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Albright-Knox announces joint acquisition with Tate Modern

Albright knox

If you've visited the Albright-Knox Art Gallery any time since January, you may have seen a curious stack of papers sitting on the gallery floor. You may, if you were there at the right time, have glimpsed someone actually removing a sheet from the stack -- thus bucking that age-old museum rule about patrons keeping their hands off the art. But what you may not have known is that the Albright-Knox acquired this untitled piece by Félix González-Torres with the help of the London's Tate gallery.

After the final details of the deal were put through, the folks at the Albright-Knox got the OK today to name the institution with whom they shared the costs of the work. (I reported on the acquisition, along with some other recent works purchased by the gallery, here.) This is the first joint acquisition the gallery has made with an overseas institution. Co-purchases, like Rachel Whiteread's gigantic inverted staircase (co-owned with Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art), are becoming more common in the museum world as budgets are stretched and competition with wealthy private collectors stiffens.

This piece by the late González-Torres is a major get for the gallery, whose director, Louis Grachos, has been talking about acquiring a piece by the coveted artist for years.

People who follow González-Torres' work intently will tell you that it is inextricably tied up with death. But many of his pieces, like the Albright-Knox's recent joint purchase, also seem to make a hopeful statement about renewal, about cycles, and about life. The circle itself, of course, represents the very idea of an unbroken or unbreakable cycle. The proximity of the circles to one another can't help but call to mind the figure-eight of the symbol for infinity. And, of course, the process of taking a sheet and having it replaced ad infinitum gets at the idea that nothing, not energy, not life, not even poster paper, can ever truly be depleted -- just manipulated, appropriated, reoriented and transformed. I haven't seen a great deal of work by González-Torres, who died from AIDS in 1996 and left behind a fascinating body of work, but this installation strikes me as one of the more elegant pieces of interactive sculpture I've come across.

It's also not a bad option for someone looking to acquire an important piece of art for the price of a gallery admission. I happily took a piece home myself, and so can you.

--Colin Dabkowski

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