Berkeley Art Museum
art museum & archive in Berkeley, California



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Berkeley Art Museum
art museum & archive in Berkeley, California
Average: 5 (3 votes)

2155 Center St
Berkeley, California
United States

More about Berkeley Art Museum

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The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, affectionately called BAMPFA, is the place to be if you’re looking for a great cup of coffee alongside world-class paintings and film.

As the art hub for UC Berkeley, there’s a decidedly academic air to the museum and film archive. This might also be due to the fact that BAMPFA’s new location, which opened in 2016, is a sleek art deco affair found just across the street from the western edge of campus, meaning there might be a lot of collegiate callers coming in after class to clear their minds. It’s the first time the film archive and museum have been under the same roof, and the building is quick to show that. The back half is a dimensional and sheeny metal spacecraft as rectangle that shields the rather large theater, while the front half, where you’ll find the gallery rooms, is stately and refined, like a painting’s frame.

The museum itself, although formally established in 1963, has been an important part of UC Berkeley since 1883 when a man named Henry Douglas Bacon donated his library and collection of artworks to the university. Today, the museum is known for its rich collections of Chinese paintings and Japanese prints, as well as artworks from California artists. It is also home to extensive archival material from the Fluxus movement, a radical group of international artists that included artists like Yoko Ono, Bruce Nauman, and Nam June Paik. This makes it one of the best places in the world to study conceptual art, if you’re into that. BAMPFA is also home to the MATRIX Exhibitions, a project started in 1974 to provide a spotlight for contemporary art. In its span of nearly fifty years, it has been home to early exhibitions from Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Louise Bourgeois, just to name a few, and has inspired many other museums to adopt similar projects.

The film archive was started in 1967 as an extension to the museum and was inspired by the Cinémathèque Française, an extensive Parisian film archive that hosts daily screenings for the public. The goal for the Pacific Film Archive was to be a place where all walks of film viewers, from patrons to students, to artists and critics, could come to enjoy and discuss film. Interestingly, it has the largest collection of Japanese films outside of the namesake country. They also regularly screen classic films and directorial series, such as the complete works of Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Bergman. If you're a Kubrick fan, you'll love to snap a few pics in the stairwells; they're an all-consuming and lurid red that would not have been out of place on set in 2001: A Space Odyssey or the Shining.

With over 24,000 paintings and 20,000 films in their permanent collection, there’s a lot to like here. And don’t forget about that coffee. It’s quite good.




  1. "BAMPFA Mission and History." BAMPFA. Accessed January 04, 2019.
  2. "MATRIX." BAMPFA. Accessed January 04, 2019.
  3. "Exhibition History." BAMPFA. Accessed January 08, 2019.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

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. The museum is a member of the North American Reciprocal Museums program.



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. The museum was founded in 1963 after a donation was made to the university from artist and teacher Hans Hofmann of 45 paintings plus $250,000. A competition to design the building was announced in 1964, and the museum, designed by Mario Ciampi, opened in 1970.

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.

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.

The museum also features the MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art. 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.

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

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."

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. 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." A subsequent exhibition showcasing the broader Eli Leon Collection will open at the museum in 2022.


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. 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." 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. The PFA also includes a library and study center, and maintains online catalogs of its films and books and an online database of documentation associated with the films.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

Comments (1)

Martena Trevino

Art museums are the places where the display of the art is most common thing and people share their creativity with the innovative ideas.