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Welcome back, BAMPFA!

February 8, 2016 | Visit Berkeley

Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is now ensconced in its new home—a building that reflects the institution’s unique half art, half film duality by mixing the repurposed existing building that was formerly the U.C. Press printing plant with a freestanding stainless steel-sheathed addition that is swirly and trendy on the exterior. From the street, passersby can see inside through windows and view video art on a huge screen at the north end of the building facing Addison Street. This new space is very different from the former dramatic and rustically finished structure that always reminded me of an angular Guggenheim. Old and new have been merged throughout, an example of which is the wood seating sculpture known as the Crane Forum which was made from the wood of Canary Island pines that were growing on site and had to be cut down for construction. A series of monumental commissioned murals will be displayed on the giant Art Wall behind the forum and change periodically. The first mural, by contemporary Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie, depicts in black and white the Chinese literati garden. Architecture of Life, the museum’s opening show, features more than 250 artworks by international artists in various media. I was especially intrigued by some well-lit intricate spider webs displayed alone in a small gallery. The Barbro Osher theater, located at the back of the entry hallway, looks much as it did in its prior location on Bancroft Way, but has been updated to state of the art. BAMPFA will continue to honor the art of cinema from around the world. A smaller theater is integrated into the lower-level galleries, and its short shows are tied in with exhibitions. Babette cafe has moved here as well, but now instead of being in the basement adjacent to a sculpture garden it is on the top floor with peek-a-boo views of the galleries below. As before, diners can enter here without paying museum admission. -Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Carole Terwilliger Meyers blogs about travel in Northern California at Weekend Adventures Update and curates Berkeley and Beyond.

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