In Berkeley, one of the most anticipated events of the new year is the opening of the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive building.
Let me say upfront that I loved that old, brutal, concrete building that used to house the museum. But going forward, the new building will present a beautifully designed museum, at a more perfect location downtown, juxtaposed between the Berkeley Arts District and the main entrance to the UC Berkeley campus, and just one block from BART.
That said, the focus of this opening is the new building that was designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro – everything about the architecture is a dance between oppositions and things coming together: The old and the new – combining the Art Deco style of the former UC Berkeley printing plant and the “supple body of the new structure, draped between the original 1930s orthogonal buildings and snagged on their sharp corners” – quoting architect Charles Renfro – which creates a dramatic public spine that connects the historic structure with the new theater. The performance space uses the wood from the trees that were cut to make way for the theater to create the seating and steps. White walls with deep red recessed areas. A maze of galleries. The bringing together of both visual art through the Berkeley Art Museum and film through the Pacific Film Archive. A celebration of art as well as a place of study.
The layout of the building is a maze – it is a space to get lost in. The front of the building is full of light with large windows lining the front of the museum. The first thing you see when entering is the performance space and the Art Wall, that will display temporary murals changing every six months, created by artists from around the world. The flexible galleries weave in and out creating space for contemplation of the exhibited works.
Of course every museum has a cafe and Babette, named after Babette’s Feast, has made the move from the old to the new museum. On my visit, the friendly husband and wife proprietors Paul Hooker and Joan Ellis were still working on fine tuning the inner sanctum of the cafe. Babette serves a rustic menu that emphasizes fresh and locally sourced produce and meats for lunch and dinner, and lovely morning pastries and coffees. It will be open 9am to 9pm Wednesdays through Sundays and you don’t need to pay admission to the museum to go there. Swig’s Lounge will occupy the very front of the cafe from 3pm – 9pm on the same days and will offer beer, wine, and small plate items for people visiting the galleries or coming in to see a film.
One of my favorite features of the building is the community facing outdoor screen. It’s a thirty foot wide, high definition outdoor LED screen that faces Addison Street that will display digitized films and videos from the museum’s collection and commissioned works of art along with feature length films.
The opening exhibition, The Architecture of Life, will feature over 250 artworks by international artists. The exhibition is on view from January 31 to May 29, 2016.
The Pacific Film Archive will screen Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal as its first film in the beautiful Barbro Osher Theater on February 3, 2016. The Pacific Film Archive hosts programs 52 weeks a year and honors the art of cinema.
Opening Day to the public is all day onSunday, January 31, 2016 from 11am to 11pm and is free to the public.
Berkeley Art Museum And Pacific Film Archive :: BAMPFA
2155 Center Street
Berkeley, California 94720
Hours: 11am to 9pm Wednesday to Sunday