BAMPFA Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive

2155 Center Street, Berkeley
California, United States
Phone: +1 (510) 642-0808
closed on: Mondays and Tuesdays
Museum Type: Art, Photography / Cinema
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The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, also known by the acronym BAMPFA, is a museum and archive of visual arts part of the University of California Berkeley, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

History and architecture – the new building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro

The origins of the museum date back to the late 19th century when 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 1970, in a new building designed by architect Mario J. Ciampi; meanwhile, the institution greatly expanded its collection of art and, in 1967, opened a department, the Pacific Film Archive, specifically focused on film history.

In the early 2000s, since Ciampi’s building was no longer compliant with modern anti-seismic standards, and the costs to retrofit it was deemed prohibitive, the institution decided to create a new home for the Berkely Art Museum by renovating and expanding a disused late-1930s printing plant.

Designed by acclaimed New York-based architectural office Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), the new home of the museum, opened in January 2016, 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 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.

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Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, 2016, view from north


The BAMPFA’s collection of visual arts is divided into two sections, one dedicated to 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 centuries.
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.

The 16,000-piece film-and-video collection of BAMPFA 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.


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BAMPFA, aerial view from the UC Berkeley campus

Berkeley Art Museum BAMPFA Diller Scofidio Renfro site plan

Berkeley Art Museum BAMPFA Diller Scofidio Renfro upper level plan

Berkeley Art Museum BAMPFA Diller Scofidio Renfro sections

Site plan, upper-level plan, and sections; images Diller Scofidio + Renfro

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BAMPFA, exterior views from south-east and south

Berkeley Art Museum BAMPFA Diller Scofidio Renfro forum space

The triple-height stepped space of the performance forum

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Two views of the exhibition galleries

Berkeley Art Museum BAMPFA Diller Scofidio Renfro main theater

The 232-seat main film theater

Berkeley Art Museum BAMPFA Diller Scofidio Renfro cafe 1

Berkeley Art Museum BAMPFA Diller Scofidio Renfro cafe 2

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

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