BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The newly renovated Buffalo AKG Art Museum is now fully open to the public and is already becoming a destination for visitors across the world.

After 3.5 years of construction, hundreds of generous donors and a vision from staff and the community, the Queen City has a museum that is truly worth boasting about.

“It is a historic moment for Buffalo-WNY – and, in fact, New York State and the entire United States,” Museum Director Dr. Janne Sirén said while touring the new Jeffrey E. Gundlach building with News 4’s Kelsey Anderson.

About $200 million went into the renovation, including the construction of the Gundlach Building, which is connected to the museum by a glass bridge and named for the man who gave $65 million to the project. Parking was moved underground and a greenspace for concerts and other events was installed along Elmwood Avenue. A glass-and-mirror-canopied common space, which is free for the public, features a café and activities for the kids.

“I would say this transformation was really emotional,” said Holly Hughes, the Godin-Spaulding senior curator for the collection.

Buffalo’s first art gallery got its start in 1862, with just one major piece of work. It was a gift by the artist, and it remains the first piece many will see when they arrive.

“That’s where the story begins,” Hughes said.

The story continues in chronological order throughout the museum, which includes some very big names. All of the pieces were curated over the years, many before those artists became the names we all know now.

“Van Gogh didn’t know he was going to be Van Gogh, right,” Hughes said. “Building a museum … it’s about risk-taking too.”

You’ll find a Van Gogh at the Buffalo AKG. Picasso, too.

“Frida Kahlo’s self portrait with a monkey is a work that everyone wants to borrow,” Sirén said.

Henri Rousseau’s “Flowers in a Vase” is displayed at the museum, along with works from Claude Monet, Salvador Dalí, and so many more.

“People always pivot toward a Pollack, and Buffalonians particularly love to look for the match that Jackson Pollack dropped on his canvas when he was painting ‘Convergence’ in 1952,” Sirén said. “And if you like Warhol, the first Warhol ever to enter an art museum collection anywhere in the world, 100 Soup Cans from 1962, is in the Wilmers Building on view.”

Hughes said more than 400 pieces are on display. That’s double what they used to show. And as impressive as the works inside are, the building they’re housed in acts as art, too. The Gundlach Building was specially designed to act as an invitation to all who pass by.

“When you’re walking down Elmwood Avenue, you can look into the space that we are right now,” Sirén said. “We want to break down the notion that a museum is an ivory tower where you don’t belong. In this museum — you belong, and everyone belongs.”

In a city used to embracing the old, Sirén hopes everyone here will join visitors from across the globe in experiencing this new, state-of-the-art museum.

“People from Paris, Beijing, Toyko, Helsinki are aware of what we’ve done,” he said. “We know that from all the requests we are getting from international travelers. So I think we will be a global destination for cultural travelers.”

For tickets and other information, click here.

Destination NY

Kelsey Anderson is an award-winning anchor who came back home to Buffalo in 2018. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.