Former BAMPFA director Kevin Consey dies at age 68

BAMPFA/Courtesy

Former director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Kevin Consey died Feb. 26 at the age of 68.

Consey spent the better part of a decade at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, or BAMPFA, during which he oversaw the curation of multiple internationally acclaimed art exhibits, according to a press release from BAMPFA. Among the major single-artist exhibitions initiated under his guidance was a traveling exhibit of Hans Hofmann’s paintings, which greatly boosted BAMPFA’s national reputation.

“(Consey was a) great innovator, risk-taker, great champion of contemporary artistic practice,” said former BAMPFA chief curator Lucinda Barnes. “He brought people together to exchange ideas and create together toward something that was new.”

Consey earned his bachelor’s degree in art history from Hofstra University, then later pursued a master’s degree in museum practice from the University of Michigan, according to the press release.

He then embarked on a series of museum leadership roles, beginning with his position as director of Hofstra’s art gallery and ending with a position as an adjunct professor at the San Francisco Art Institute.

After working closely with Consey at three separate museums, Barnes applauded Consey’s ability as a mentor. She called him a person who “encouraged you to reach as far as you could, but never left you hanging.”  

While working at BAMPFA, Consey initiated multiple interdisciplinary projects that extended beyond the “relatively closed art world,” according to Barnes.

Consey also loved to bring new voices into the program by increasing the representation of student committees within BAMPFA’s board of trustees. He also sought to give students a larger, more significant role in museum operations, according to Barnes.

More specifically, Barnes recalled an instance in 2008 in which Consey bridged artists and international conservation agencies to create works of art that reflected artists’ experiences with climate change.

“His unparalleled eye for artistic excellence invigorated BAMPFA’s collection and programs, and his vision and persistence laid the groundwork for the museum to flourish in a beautiful new building that he helped to realize,” said Chancellor Carol Christ in the press release.

According to Barnes, Consey wanted conversations to generate new ideas. Barnes added that this enabled her and her colleagues to expand their knowledge and develop compassion for others.

Despite his reputation as a tough and challenging mentor, Barnes said Consey had a great sense of humor and expected the best out of everyone.

“We’ll all miss him,” Barnes said. “I speak for a lot of people to have been fortunate to work with him, to have him as a colleague, friend — to have been changed by him.”

Contact Revati Thatte and Michelle Lee at [email protected].