The beauty of the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive lies both in the space’s aesthetic minutia and its wide-ranging and impressive collection.
Light floods into the towering white building through giant windows. On the right, you can see the vibrant energy of Downtown Berkeley. On the left, you catch a glimpse of the lush UC Berkeley campus. Looking upward, there are beautifully slanted ceilings built in the Art Deco style. Painted in a red and white color scheme, the space feels modern and urban, yet it quite literally repurposed a historical building on university grounds — the former UC Berkeley printing plant.
The scope of BAMPFA’s new features is truly dizzying in the best way possible. Special in that it is equal parts visual arts and film, the space is unparalleled in scope, providing education and entertainment all in one package. It also gives students a study and hangout spot, with offerings such as the beloved Babette Cafe, which will be open until 9 p.m. to operate in concurrence with BAMPFA’s gallery hours.
“I think there’s a lot there for anyone — whether you go to the museum all the time or you’ve never been in an art museum,” said Emily Szasz, co-chair of the BAMPFA Student Committee. “I think that it’s an accessible and engaging space that every Berkeley student should definitely make an opportunity to check out at least once.”
Indeed, there is a lot to be excited about. Entrance is free for UC Berkeley students, with the exception of film screenings, which will be offered at a discounted price. For film buffs, BAMPFA has two state-of-the-art film theaters and hosts approximately 450 film programs each year, screening everything from blockbusters to indie films. For film researchers, the Film Library & Study Center contains more than 300,000 items related to the research of film, while the film collection includes more than 17,500 works.
Visual arts lovers will also find plenty to delight in the arts programming. The premiere exhibition, “Architecture of Life,” pays homage to the new building and features prominent names such as Bay Area native Ruth Asawa and French artist Marcel Duchamp. It explores architecture on spiritual, scientific, emotional and physical dimensions, spanning well over 2,000 years of works. The art collection itself gives visitors the opportunity to engage with showstopping pieces from names such as Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock and Ai Weiwei. Additionally, BAMPFA offers the Art Lab, a drop-in art-making area where visitors will have the opportunity to create their own art through hands-on learning.
“I’m really into the design of the space, and I think a lot of people will feel inspired when they’re studying at the new Babette,” said Julia Higgins, a member of the BAMPFA Student Committee. “It’s going to be a great space for not only engaging with art, but also creating it.”
The BAMPFA Student Committee plays a vital role in engaging the UC Berkeley community with the arts and connecting the student body. Throughout the year, it organizes symposia, parties and events geared toward UC Berkeley students, such as Poster Pizza Palooza and BAMFEST.
“Part of our goal is to connect students to the art museum and film archive,” Szasz said. “But I think the second part of our goal is really to connect students to each other through that venue.”
The student opening, titled “In Space,” will take place Friday from 8 to 11 p.m., decked out with food, games and activities that the committee meticulously planned during the previous semester. The theme draws inspiration from both the physical museum space as well as the “Wow!” signal piece featured in the exhibition. The “Wow!” signal piece originated when SETI Institute astronomers noticed a significant pattern in their trackings of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, circled the said pattern and quite literally wrote in bold red ink, “Wow!”
“In Space” is a part of a four-day opening celebration beginning Thursday with a sold-out opening gala, “Portal” and ending with “Community Day” on Sunday, during which BAMPFA will be open for free to the public.
The excitement and hype surrounding the opening is not unfounded. Reincarnated in the form of a sleek, beautiful building, BAMPFA offers not only a new geographical space but also an intellectual and creative space for eager art and film lovers amid the student body.
Stacey Nguyen covers visual art. Contact her at [email protected].