With warm greetings and high expectations, Finnish museum director Janne Gallen-Kallela-Sirén soon begins his new job as director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
As reported by News arts critic Colin Dabkowski, Sirén, 42, is ending his five-year tenure as director of the Helsinki Art Museum. He will succeed Louis Grachos, who left the Albright-Knox this month for a job in Austin, Texas, after 10 years at the helm.
Janne Sirén (pronounced Ya-NAY Seer-EN) could have had his pick of jobs, but the Albright-Knox’s worldwide reputation attracted him. His admiration for the work done by Grachos, coupled with his own vision for the possibilities to come, makes him an ideal choice.
“From the moment I set foot in Buffalo, it was sort of love at first sight,” Sirén said.
The fact that he told The News that he was drawn to the opportunity not only because of the museum’s envied collection of modern and contemporary art, but because of the cultural momentum brewing in Buffalo is not just idle flattery. This area is undergoing massive physical changes, from the work at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and waterfront to the neighborhood improvements on the Lower West Side.
Add to that the synergy among the area’s cultural gems, including the Albright-Knox, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, the Buffalo Museum of Science and the Buffalo History Museum, to name just a few, and the area is well-positioned for a rebound. Sirén has the opportunity to add to that story line.
Sirén’s connections to this country run deep. He earned his undergraduate degree from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and his master’s and Ph.D. in art history from New York University. And his connection to Buffalo dates back to his great-grandfather, whom he said was an associate of Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen who, with his son Eero, designed Kleinhans Music Hall.
Sirén also has an international pedigree – he speaks five languages and has lived and worked in seven countries, including Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Austria and Israel, where he taught for four years as a visiting professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Sirén’s impressive credentials, leadership skills and reputation for making community connections made him the unanimous choice of the Albright-Knox board of directors. In his native Helsinki, he served a dual role as director of the museum and as a key architect of the City of Helsinki’s cultural policy and its public art program.
His plan to apply that experience in Buffalo meshes well with the direction of the city and region.
The City of Good Neighbors welcomes Sirén and his family, and promises not to disappoint his young children anxious about whether there will be snow here.