The mission of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film.
The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is the visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley. Through art and film programs, collections and research resources, we aspire to be locally connected and globally relevant, engaging audiences from the campus, community, and beyond.
One of the largest university art museums in the United States, BAM/PFA opened the doors of its distinctive Modernist building on the south side of the UC Berkeley campus in 1970. BAM/PFA’s diverse exhibition programs and its collections of more than 16,000 objects and 14,000 films and videos are characterized by themes of artistic innovation, intellectual exploration, and social commentary, and reflect the central role of education in BAM/PFA’s mission.
The museum was founded in 1963 following artist and teacher Hans Hofmann’s donation of forty-five paintings and $250,000 to the University; today BAM/PFA’s collection of work by this important Abstract Expressionist artist remains the largest in any museum internationally. An architectural competition to design the new museum building was announced in November 1964, and the following year San Francisco architect Mario Ciampi and associates Richard L. Jorasch and Ronald E. Wagner were named the winners. The jury declared, “The richness of this building will arise from the sculptural beauty of its rugged major forms and will not require costly materials or elaborate details. We believe this design . . . can become one of the outstanding contributions to museum design in our time.” Construction began in 1967, and the building opened on November 7, 1970. BAM/PFA is currently planning a new visual arts center.
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s distinguished collections are characterized by artistic excellence and innovation, intellectual exploration, and social commentary. With more than 16,000 works of art and 14,000 films and videos, BAM/PFA’s collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive of any American university museum.
Representing a tremendous diversity of global cultures and historical periods, BAM/PFA’s art collection has particular strengths in Ming and Qing dynasty Chinese painting, Mughal dynasty Indian miniature painting, Baroque painting, old master prints and drawings, early American painting, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century photography, conceptual art, and international contemporary art. The museum’s Modern collection is built around a remarkable core holding of fifty paintings by the Abstract Expressionist painter and teacher Hans Hofmann and includes significant works by Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Ad Reinhardt, Jackson Pollock, David Smith, and Clyfford Still. Our film and video collections are especially strong in classic and international cinema, West Coast avant-garde film, international animation, Soviet cinema, early video art, and the largest collection of Japanese films outside of Japan.
BAM/PFA offers one of the most distinguished and provocative programs of art and film exhibitions in North America. As the visual arts center of UC Berkeley, BAM/PFA presents an ambitious program reflecting the diverse interests of the University and Bay Area communities.
Our gallery program has presented important original one-person exhibitions of work by Juan Gris, Jay DeFeo, Robert Colescott, Andrea Fraser, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sebastião Salgado, Rosemarie Trockel, and Bruce Nauman, among many others, as well as thematic exhibitions such as Anxious Visions: Surrealist Art; Made in U.S.A.: An Americanization in Modern Art, the ‘50s & ‘60s; The Here and the Hereafter: Images of Paradise in Islamic Art; In a Different Light: Visual Culture, Sexual Identity, Queer Practice; Hogarth and His Times: Serious Comedy; Drawn by the Brush: Oil Sketches by Peter Paul Rubens; and Masterworks of Chinese Painting: In Pursuit of Mists and Clouds.
Our active Asian art exhibition program has presented work from diverse regions of the continent, focusing on themes ranging from the Islamic conception of paradise to representations of divinity in Himalayan sculpture to selections from the world’s most comprehensive collection of contemporary Chinese art.
The renowned MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art has been a venue for innovative works by important emerging artists since 1978, affording the spontaneity and flexibility of a small-scale, short-term format. Our pioneering exhibitions in the emerging medium of digital art contribute to the timeliness and forward-looking nature of our exhibition program.
The approximately 450 annual screenings in the Pacific Film Archive theater offer a place to discover and explore cinema from every film-producing country in the world.
Recognized for decades as one of the nation’s leading film venues and archives, the Pacific Film Archive is dedicated to the understanding, appreciation, and preservation of cinema. This mission, though expanded, has remained essentially unchanged since PFA’s founding in 1971, when it was conceived as an American version of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris.
Celebrated for the breadth of its programming, mixing classic cinema in all its diversity with the most up-to-date experimental forms, PFA has played a crucial role in making the Bay Area one of the most cinema-literate communities in the country. In approximately 450 programs each year, PFA presents rare and rediscovered prints of movie classics, new and historic works by the world’s great film directors, restored silent films with live musical accompaniment, thematic retrospectives, and innovative works made by today’s film, video, and new media artists working in the areas of animation, documentary, experimental, and fiction film. For generations of UC Berkeley students, film at PFA has been a memorable and significant facet of their learning experience, opening up new worlds of understanding.
PFA’s collection of more than 14,000 works includes strong holdings in classic and international cinema, West Coast avant-garde film, international animation, Soviet cinema, early video art, and the largest collection of Japanese films outside of Japan.
The PFA Library is an invaluable resource for film research and education, offering access to PFA’s film collection as well as to thousands of books, periodicals, posters, and still photographs. In addition, the library has compiled some 95,000 files of documentation about individual films, personalities, and subjects. Many of these files are now available online through CineFiles, PFA’s innovative film document image database.
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