BAMPFA to reopen its doors in May

person looking at two quilts on display

A BAMPFA staff member admires the exhibition, Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective, which includes 75 of the late Bay Area artist’s quilts, which will be on display at the museum through July 17. (BAMPFA photo)

After being closed for more than a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) will be reopening its doors to the public on Sunday, May 2. Members of BAMPFA and the UC Berkeley community are invited to a free preview on Friday, April 30, and California essential workers with a work ID will receive free admission on Saturday, May 1.

Portrait of Julie Rodrigues Widholm

Julie Rodrigues Widholm became the director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in August 2020. (Photo by Jesse Meria)

“It’s extremely exciting to be able to welcome our community back into the museum,” said Julie Rodrigues Widholm, who became BAMPFA’s new director last August, while the museum was closed. “I think we’ve all missed what museums bring to our lives — the intellectual stimulation, but also the visceral experience of being in a gallery, looking at art, learning about artists who maybe we haven’t heard of before, and just kind of tapping into that fundamental need for human expression.”

With a limited Friday through Sunday schedule, BAMPFA will operate under a comprehensive safety plan developed in consultation with public health authorities. In addition to the museum restricting its capacity to 25% and having timed ticketed access, hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the museum, high-touch areas will be sterilized regularly, and all visitors and staff will be required to wear masks.

Among the exhibits on display is Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective, which includes 75 of the late Bay Area artist’s quilts and was called by the New York Times a “life-changing, history-altering exhibition.” The exhibition, curated from a collection of nearly 3,000 quilts by more than 400 African American artists gifted by Oakland-based collector Eli Leon, will be on display through July 17.

“Bringing in historically marginalized artists and giving their work a space and a platform is incredibly important,” said Widholm. “Rosie Lee Tompkins didn’t think of herself as an artist. She just made quilts for very spiritual and religious reasons. It’s important that museums begin to open up space for those who may not have been considered artists in their time or didn’t consider themselves artists, but who had a significant impact on visual culture.”

quilts on display in a museum

The Rosie Lee Tompkins quilt exhibition (pictured) was curated from a collection of nearly 3,000 quilts by more than 400 African American artists, gifted to BAMPFA by Oakland-based collector Eli Leon. (Photo by Impart Photography)

Other exhibitions, installed during the museum’s closure, include photography by Ulrike Ottinger, a German filmmaker, visual artist and stage director; rare Buddhist artifacts from the ancient civilization and Gandhara, now northern India; and a student-curated group exhibition of Latin American art from the BAMPFA collection that explores the impact of colonialism in Central and South America. BAMPFA is also presenting a mural by artist Edie Fake titled Affordable Housing for Trans Elders.

Reservations, which are strongly recommended, will be available on the BAMPFA website beginning April 21 for members and April 22 for the public. Babette, the museum’s cafe, will open May 7 with limited occupancy to ticketed visitors. Film screenings and live public events will be suspended until further notice.

Learn more on BAMPFA’s website.