Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Berkeley Art Museum is Dead - Long Live the Berkeley Art Museum!

On December 21, 2104, the Berkeley Art Museum closed its doors on Bancroft Way for the last time.

Opened in 1970, the BAM building has been judged seismically unsafe, and word is that its next inhabitant will need to cough up $50-100 million to retrofit it. Meantime, BAM is building a new museum in Downtown Berkeley, scheduled to open in early 2016.

From the museum's mission and history page:
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.
Here's what the open, spacious museum looked like on a quiet, late November day this year -- my penultimate visit:

Today, as 100 metronomes ticked and tocked through the final minutes of the signature building's final day as UC Berkeley's campus art museum, the building was packed.

Here's a clip of Sarah Cahill kicking off BAM's final event of the day (pictured in the still photo above): a performance of Hungarian composer György Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique for 100 Metronomes.

Meanwhile, many of the museum's last-day visitors -- encouraged by museum director Larry Rinder -- wandered through the museum's galleries, including this one displaying some of those 45 works by Hans Hofmann, donated by the artist and Cal professor in 1963:

After the metronomes wound down, a crowd gathered outside, for a procession led by Rinder (carrying the paper-mâché giraffe head) and fueled by the New Orleans style music of MJ's Brass Boppers Brass Band:

We paraded through the campus to its West Gate, across Oxford Street from the site of the new museum, still under construction. Here's a clip of the band's spirited rendition of When The Saints Go Marching In as the event wound to a close:

I'm going to miss the old museum. Here's hoping the new building lives up to its predecessor when it opens, in a little more than a year...

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Barry McGee mid-career survey at UC Berkeley art museum
Shape, stone, seeing: Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long, Michael Ondaatje
Berkeley's Art Practice Undergrads at Worth Ryder Gallery
Meet the Fishers