Peter Selz, the founding director of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) from 1965 to 1973, died on Friday, June 21, at 100 years old.
As director, Selz more than doubled the museum’s collection, adding many old master, modern and contemporary masterworks, and often defying 1960s art trends. While the New York art scene embraced the pop and minimalism art movements, Selz celebrated countercultural funk art and championed works of figurative artists and ceramicists who went on to great acclaim.
“Peter Selz was a remarkable individual whose contributions to BAMPFA, UC Berkeley and the broader art world are too numerous to count,” said Lawrence Rinder, BAMPFA’s director and chief curator. “Peter transformed BAMPFA from a modest university art collection into the internationally renowned art and film institution it is today. Generations of Bay Area art lovers have benefited from his insight, knowledge, independence and boundless energy, and his legacy will reverberate across and beyond our museum for decades to come.”
Selz, who was also a professor of art history at Berkeley for 23 years, was recently honored at BAMPFA on his 100th birthday. In what would be his final public appearance, Selz said, “I can say there’s a lot of very, very good art being produced now. A lot of surprises … I have felt optimistic about art all my life.”