Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

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Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.jpeg
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is located in Oakland, California
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Location in Berkeley shown on a map centered on Oakland, California
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is located in San Francisco Bay Area
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Location in the San Francisco Bay Area
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is located in California
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
Location in California
Former name
University Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (UAM/PFA)
Location2155 Center St, Berkeley, CA 94720
Coordinates37°52′16″N 122°15′59″W / 37.87111°N 122.26639°W / 37.87111; -122.26639
Typeart museum, film archive
DirectorJulie Rodrigues Widholm
ArchitectMario Ciampi (1970), Diller Scofidio + Renfro (2016)

The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA, formerly abbreviated as BAM/PFA) are a combined art museum, repertory movie theater, and archive associated with the University of California, Berkeley. Lawrence Rinder was Director from 2008 to 2020, to be succeeded by Julie Rodrigues Widholm in August, 2020.[1][2] The museum is a member of the North American Reciprocal Museums program.



The Capture of Christ (c. 1345) by Paolo Veneziano, featured in the 2018 exhibit "Old Masters in a New Light."[3]

The University of California art collection began with Flight into Egypt, a 16th-century oil on wood panel by the School of Joachim Patinir gifted to the University by San Francisco banker and financier François Louis Alfred Pioche in 1870.[4][5] The museum was founded in 1963 after a donation was made to the university from artist and teacher Hans Hofmann of 45 paintings[6] plus $250,000. Founding Director Peter Selz, formerly of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, served from 1965 - 1973 and played a key role in establishing the museum, championing unorthodox Bay Area artists.[7] A competition to design the building was announced in 1964, and the museum, designed by Mario Ciampi, opened in 1970.[8]

The collection holds more than 22,000 works of art, including Ming and Qing dynasty Chinese paintings, Mughal dynasty Indian miniature painting, Baroque painting, old master prints and drawings, early American painting, African-American quilts, 19th and 20th century photography, Conceptual art, and international contemporary art.

Sandstone statue of Ganesha, India, 10th century.

The museum has featured works by Albert Bierstadt, Jonathan Borofsky, Joan Brown, Robert Colescott, Jay DeFeo, Helen Frankenthaler, Paul Gauguin, Juan Gris, Ant Farm, Howard Fried, Paul Kos, Robert Mapplethorpe, Knox Martin, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Sebastião Salgado.[9]

The museum also features the MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art.[10] MATRIX has featured artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, James Lee Byars, Sophie Calle, Jay DeFeo, Willem de Kooning, Juan Downey, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, Shirin Neshat, Nancy Spero, Cecilia Vicuña, and Andy Warhol.[10]

In 2009, the museum acquired (as a gift from the artist) the Abu Ghraib Series[11] of 56 painting and drawings by Fernando Botero.[12] Selections from the series are regularly included in the museum's revolving Art for Human Rights exhibitions.[13]

In 2014, the museum acquired San Francisco collector and dealer Steven Leiber's collection of Conceptual art and art materials, as well as his library of reference and artists' books related to Conceptualism and the Fluxus movement. According to The New York Times, "with the acquisition…the museum and film archive will become one of the world’s most important centers for the study of Conceptual art."[14]

In 2019, as a bequest, the museum acquired the Eli Leon Collection of almost 3,000 works by African-American quilt makers, including more than 500 works by Rosie Lee Tompkins. The collection now accounts for about 15 percent of the museum's art collection.[15][16] Drawing from the Eli Leon Collection, BAMPFA organized the exhibit Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective (opened February 19, 2020; closed due to COVID-19 shut-down; re-opens September through December 20, 2020); The New York Times called it "a triumphal retrospective" that "confirms her standing as one of the great American artists–transcending craft, challenging painting and reshaping the canon."[17][18] A subsequent exhibition showcasing the broader Eli Leon Collection will open at the museum in 2022.[15]


The Pacific Film Archive (PFA) was founded by Sheldon Renan, who began screening films on the UC campus in 1966 and was appointed Director of the new PFA in 1967.[19][20] The PFA specializes in programming films "in a theoretical or critical context—exploring, for example, film noir in the context of the post-war ethos."[21] Lectures by film scholars and visits from filmmakers further contextualize the programming. The archive houses 16,000 films and videos, including the largest collection of Japanese films outside of Japan.[22] The PFA also includes a library and study center,[23] and maintains online catalogs of its films and books[24] and an online database of documentation associated with the films.[25]


The former Berkeley Art Museum building was designed by Mario Ciampi and opened in 1970.[8] The concrete Brutalist building was deemed seismically unsafe in 1997, and iron braces were added in 2001 to improve safety. In 1999, the Pacific Film Archive moved to a temporary building across the street.[26]

Interior of the former (seismically unsafe) Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive building designed by Mario Ciampi.

In 2008, BAMPFA unveiled plans for a new visual arts center, to be designed by the Japanese architect Toyo Ito and located in downtown Berkeley, across the street from UC Berkeley's main entrance.[27][28][29] In 2009 those plans were cancelled. Citing the weak economy and trouble raising necessary funds, BAMPFA decided to retrofit and enlarge (rather than demolish) the former University of California Press printing plant at that site, a 1939 Art Deco building on the California Register of Historic Resources and qualified to be on the National Register of Historic Places.[26][30][31]

Sign for the new Berkeley Art Museum (detail), photo by Steven Saylor

In 2011, BAMPFA presented the schematic design for the $100 million transformation of the former printing plant into its new home, designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro.[32] Located at 2120 Oxford Street in downtown Berkeley, the building combines the existing concrete structure with a new metal-clad, skylighted addition that includes several galleries, a 232-seat theater, a store and a learning center.[32] Construction began in 2013.[33] The museum re-opened to the public on January 31, 2016.[34] The building totals 83,000 square feet, with 25,000 square feet of gallery space.[35]

The vacated Mario Ciampi building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 (National Register Information System ID: 13001034). The building is being "reimagined" and is projected to reopen in 2021 as Woo Hon Fai Hall,[36] home to the new Bakar BioEnginuity Hub.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lawrence Rinder, director and chief curator of BAMPFA, to step down".
  2. ^ Libbey, Peter (June 25, 2020). "Berkeley Art Museum Names a New Director". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "BAMPFA Unveils Newly Restored Highlights of European Old Masters Collection in Old Masters in a New Light".
  4. ^ Charles A. Fracchia (July 26, 2011). "Francois Louis Alfred Pioche, San Francisco Banker and Financier". Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
  5. ^ Flight into Egypt, BAM Collection item 1870.1
  6. ^ "Art Collection – CollectionSpace".
  7. ^ Karlstrom, Paul J. (2012). Peter Selz: Sketches of a Life in Art. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. ISBN 9780520269354.
  8. ^ a b BAM/PFA Mission & History
  9. ^ "Exhibition History – BAMPFA".
  10. ^ a b "Matrix Exhibitions – BAMPFA".
  11. ^ "Art Collection – CollectionSpace".
  12. ^ Lucinda Barnes, "Fernando Botero: The Abu Ghraib Series," September 23, 2009-February 7, 2010 exhibition notes.
  13. ^ "Permanent Accusation: Art for Human Rights".
  14. ^ Randy Kennedy (December 18, 2014), A Permanent Home for a Collection of Art Ephemera The New York Times.
  15. ^ a b "BAMPFA Receives Historic Bequest of Nearly Three Thousand Quilts by African American Artists".
  16. ^ Libbey, Peter (October 16, 2019). "African-American Art Quilts Find a Museum Home in California". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective".
  18. ^ Smith, Roberta (June 26, 2020). "The Radical Quilting of Rosie Lee Tompkins". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Amazonas, Lee (Spring 2004). "Guerrilla Cinematheque Comes of Age: The Pacific Film Archive" (PDF). Chronicle of the University of California: 147–159.
  20. ^ "Sheldon Renan Selects: Light and Time".
  21. ^ "The Pacific Film Archive". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 16 (1): 39–42. 1996. doi:10.1080/01439689600260071.
  22. ^ The 35 Best College Art Museums
  23. ^ "Film Library & Study Center – BAMPFA".
  24. ^ "Search Film, Video, and Book Catalogs".
  25. ^ "CineFiles Film Document Database".
  26. ^ a b Modenessi, Jennifer (January 29, 2010). "UC Printing Plant may become new home of Berkeley Art Museum". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved February 10, 2010.
  27. ^ Kino, Carol (March 28, 2007). "On College Campuses, A Crop of Galleries". The New York Times.
  28. ^ DelVecchio, Rick (September 30, 2006). "Tokyo architect to design Cal's new museum". San Francisco Chronicle.
  29. ^ Ouroussoff, Nicolai (November 24, 2008). "A Berkeley Museum Wrapped in Honeycomb". The New York Times.
  30. ^ Lee, Lydia (January 26, 2010). "Berkeley's Moderne Art Museum". The Architect's Newspaper. Archived from the original on January 29, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2010.
  31. ^ Bhattacharjee, Riya (January 28, 2010). "University Eyes Old UC Printing Plant for New Art Museum". Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved February 10, 2010.
  32. ^ a b Pogrebin, Robin (September 16, 2011). "Berkeley Museum Unveils New Design". The New York Times.
  33. ^ Rosario, Gladys (February 13, 2013), "Construction begins on UC Berkeley Art Museum", Daily Californian
  34. ^ "Community Day – BAMPFA".
  35. ^ "BAMPFA Thrives in its First Few Months in its New Downtown Berkeley Home".
  36. ^ "Hong Kong businessman honors father, Woo Hon Fai, with major gift to UC Berkeley".
  37. ^ "Bakar BioEnginuity Hub".

External links[edit]