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New director named for AMOA-Arthouse

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

Louis Grachos, director of the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., for the past decade, has been named executive director of AMOA-Arthouse, the museum's board announced Thursday.

"He comes with an outstanding reputation in the art world and extensive relationships with artists, collectors and museum colleagues," said Michael "Mickey" Klein, chairman of the AMOA-Arthouse board.

"He has a wealth of knowledge and a history of creating exciting exhibitions and programs. I know Louis will be a great asset to the Austin arts community."

In November, the Austin Museum of Art and Congress Avenue contemporary art center Arthouse merged to become AMOA-Arthouse.

"The opportunities there are so rich," Grachos told the American-Statesman. "I'm looking forward to bringing these two organizations together and building something new."

Dana Friis-Hansen, who was director of the Austin Museum of Art, left his job in early 2011, while Sue Graze, Arthouse's director, departed in October.

Jack Nokes has been serving as the museum's interim director.

In a somewhat unusual arrangement, Grachos will start at AMOA-Arthouse part time this November before becoming full time in January 2013.

One of oldest public arts institutions in the United States, the Albright-Knox is celebrating its sesquicentennial, for which Grachos is committed to stay, an AMOA-Arthouse spokesman said.

As he plans for the Austin museum's future, Grachos said he intends to solicit ideas from staffers, board members, artists and members of the community.

"These are folks who are really committed to contemporary culture and bringing artistic excellence to the community," he said. "I'm looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and learning more."

Some ideas Grachos said he's interested in exploring include more educational offerings; an art festival with international flair; and collaborative projects that meld art with film and music.

"Austin feels like a great laboratory to try new things," he said. "Creative people want to go there and create work."

The Albright-Knox has an annual budget of about $8 million, compared to AMOA-Arthouse's $3.2 million budget.

A native of Canada, Grachos was educated at the University of Toronto and New York University.

He has also served as the director of SITE in Santa Fe, N.M, a contemporary art center known for its progressive exhibitions. Before that, he was curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, Calif., and at the Center for the Fine Arts in Miami.

Grachos attracted international attention in 2006 when he announced that items from the Albright-Knox's permanent collection — among them pieces of African, Asian, Greek, Renaissance and Roman art — would be sold and the money used to buy contemporary art.

A group of concerned Buffalo residents filed suit to stop the sale, saying it was an illegal misappropriation of the museum's assets, but a judge dismissed the case.

In 2007, a Roman-era bronze sculpture from the Albright–Knox collection sold at Sotheby's auction house for a record-breaking $28.6 million. In all, the Albright-Knox received about $64.2 million for the artworks it sold at auction.

Contact Jeanne Claire van Ryzin at 445-3699 and Gary Dinges at 912-5987