BAMPFA Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, also known as BAMPFA, is a visual art museum and archive part of the University of California Berkeley, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
History and architecture – the new building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro
The museum’s origins date back to the late 19th century when the UC Berkeley opened the Bacon Art and Library Building, a small museum of painting. In the following decades, the museum first moved to a former powerhouse in 1931 and then in a new building, designed by architect Mario J. Ciampi, in 1970; meanwhile, the institution greatly expanded its collection of art and also opened a department, the Pacific Film Archive, specifically focused on film history in 1967.
In the early 2000s, Ciampi’s building was no longer compliant to modern anti-seismic standards and the costs to retrofit it was deemed prohibitive; therefore, the institution took the decision to create a new home for the Berkely Art Museum by renovating and expanding a late-1930s disused printing plant.
Opened in January 2016 and designed by acclaimed New York-based architectural office Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), the new home of the museum merged the 48,000 square-foot preexisting building, a Streamline Moderne style construction which comprised an office building and a sawtooth-roof plant, with a sleek 35,000-square-foot expansion clad in stainless steel.
While the old plant’s exterior has been kept largely untouched, its interior was substantially transformed to accommodate eight galleries, offices, study centers, workshops, a lecture room, a 33-seat small theater, and a triple-height performance forum.
The shiny shard-shaped expansion, spanning the entire lot from north to south, contains a 232-seat film theater and an impressive cafe space hanging over the museum’s entrance. A huge 32-by-18-foot LED screen has been positioned on the northern facade of the expansion with the aim to ideally and visually connect BAMPFA with the urban space around, and to create a small public outdoor cinema.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, 2016, view from north
The BAMPFA collection of visual arts is divided into two sections, one of fine art and one focused on film and videos.
The fine art collection consists of about 19,000 works dating from the 16th century to the present and comprises paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, and photographs by artists such as Lucas Cranach the Elder, Giovanni Savoldo, Henry Alexander, Paul Gauguin, Auguste Maillol, René Magritte, Alexander Calder, Hans Hoffmann, Frederick Hammersley, Fernand Leger, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Irwin, Claes Oldenburg, Arnaldo Pomodoro, Eva Hesse, Yoko Ono, and Raymond Saunders, among many others.
The fine art collection also features notable Chinese paintings of the 17th and 18th century.
The over 5,000 photographs in the BAMPFA collection include works by Alvin Langdon Coburn, Alinari brothers, Margaret Bourke-White, Daniel Buren, Ansel Adams, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Cindy Sherman, among others.
Finally, BAMPFA’s 16,000-piece film-and-video collection comprises movie reels, musical scores, pictures and documents covering the history of film from its origins to the present day, with a special focus on American, Russian and Japanese filmmaking.
Program of exhibitions, events, and activities
The institution’s mission – “to inspire the imagination, ignite critical dialogue, and activate community engagement through art, film, and other forms of creative expression” – is developed through a program of special exhibitions, screenings, lectures, talks, readings, creative workshops, and family events.
The museum features both thematic exhibitions and solo retrospectives, sometimes based on the museum’s collection sometimes not, presenting historical, modern and contemporary artists and art movements.
An important part of the museum’s program since 1978, MATRIX is a series of exhibitions featuring both emerging and established contemporary artists that, over the last forty years, has presented the work of Doug Aitken, John Baldessari, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, Juan Downey, Nan Goldin, Willem de Kooning, Sol LeWitt, and Andy Warhol, to name a few.
BAMPFA is also well-known for its film program, featuring about 450 screenings a year, aimed to present American and international films ranging from movie classics to innovative works by contemporary new-media artists.
BAMPFA, aerial view from the UC Berkeley campus
Site plan, upper level plan, and sections; images Diller Scofidio + Renfro
BAMPFA, exterior views from south-east and south
The triple-height stepped space of the performance forum
Two views of the exhibition galleries
The 232-seat main film theater
The red-colored cafe space suspended over the museum’s entrance
Cover image: Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, east facade
All photographs © Iwan Baan, courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro