What Is the Berkeley Art Museum?

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  • Written By: Angie Pollock
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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The Berkeley Art Museum is one of the largest visual arts museums in the United States, centered at the University of California, Berkeley. Fully known as the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA), Berkeley Art Museum was established in 1963 and officially opened to the public in 1970. Though it initially featured work by Hans Hofmann, the museum now boasts thousands of artistic displays including those from famous artists like Jackson Pollock as well as more than 10,000 films. In addition, visitors can also participate in many specialty events and programs.

The establishment of the museum began with a collection of work donated by abstract expressionist artist Hans Hofmann. He is described as one of the most notable artists of post-war American art and has been attributed with playing an important part in the progression of Abstract Expressionism. Along with Berkeley Art Museum, Hofmann’s work is displayed at various other American art museums including the Baltimore Museum of Art and Albright-Knox Art Gallery.


The artwork displayed at Berkeley Art Museum includes the previous donations along with more acquired pieces from Hans Hofmann. Other famed artists on display at the museum include Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock, to name a few. The film and video accumulation include collections from a broad spectrum of works with a large representation of classic and international works available. The Pacific Film Archive holds the second largest collection of Japanese cinema in the world, with Japan having the largest.

Along with various art collections and an extensive assembly of films, the museum hosts a variety of events, film programs, and special art exhibitions. Comprehensive groupings of photographs featuring world events are often on the agenda for public viewing. A video internship program is also available for Berkeley college students interested in digital media. Students majoring in film studies and digital arts qualify for curatorial internships.

The construction of Berkeley Art Museum took roughly three years to complete. Although the museum was founded in 1963, construction did not begin until 1967 and completed in 1970. The building was constructed on the south section of Berkeley’s campus by architect Mario Ciampi, along with collaborators Richard L. Jorasch and Ronald E. Wagner. A survey conducted in 1997 revealed that the building did not meet seismic standards, however, and bracing upgrades of the facility were completed in 2001. Plans for a new structure are pending as of 2011.


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