Three Renowned Museums Get Makeovers
From the recent reopening of UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive to the soon-to-launch Met Breuer in New York, it's a good time to be exploring art.
Berkeley on Jan. 31 welcomed a brand-new museum designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the same architects who designed Los Angeles’ new downtown destination the Broad. The public launch of BAMPFA was the culmination of a four-day Grand Opening Week, starting with a Jan. 28 gala with event co-chairs including tech power duo Mark Pincus (Zynga co-founder) and wife Alison (One King’s Lane co-founder) and such guests as Yves Behar and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
BAMPFA, which stands for the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, was formerly housed in a 101,000 square-foot Brutalist masterpiece designed by Mario Ciampi that was deemed seismically unsafe in 1997. After years of half-measures in temporary spaces, the new location is a former printing press, located where downtown Berkeley meets the UC Berkeley campus.
"Our art and film programs have been separated in different buildings for about a decade," museum director Lawrence Rinder told The Hollywood Reporter. "I’m excited about the fact that they are once again under the same roof and for the first time in our history accessible through the same museum entrance, which underscores our unique identity as a museum for both art and film."
Key to that unique identity are two purpose-built, state-of-the-art cinemas (with 232 and 33 seats, respectively) and a 30-foot-wide LED outdoor screen that will allow the museum to boost screenings from 380 to 450 per year, adding matinees on Sundays and some Saturdays and films every night the museum is open. "About 50 percent will have a director, actor or scholar speaking before or after," added Rinder. "That kind of engagement with audiences is a big part of what we do."
Upcoming programming includes retrospectives devoted to the films of German visionary Wim Wenders; contemporary Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who most recently won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for Winter Sleep (2014); and legendary French auteur Jean Epstein. Then there is the new series called In Focus: The Role of Film Archives. As part of that program, Grover Crisp, Sony Pictures senior vp asset management, film restoration and digital mastering — whom Rinder described as “one of the industry’s leading lights in championing preservation” — will lecture in conjunction with a screening of a digitally restored Gilda (Feb. 17), and Mike Pogorzelski, director of the Academy Film Archive, will present Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray's masterpiece The World of Apu (March 9).
Nearly 3,000 miles to the east, the former home (for nearly 50 years) of the Whitney Museum of Art, a building designed by Marcel Breuer, will reopen to the public on March 18 as the Met Breuer, the new showcase for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s expanding modern and contemporary art programs.
With the goal of honoring the Bauhaus-trained Breuer’s original vision, the architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle — which has revamped cultural institutions including Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center — has restored the iconic structure with subtle renovations to the interior, floors and fixtures. But most obvious to visitors will be the reconfigured lobby complete with a new "book bar" that reflects Breuer’s intention for that space. (Those who knew the Whitney well will appreciate a big boost to the Wi-Fi, all the better to put the Met’s acclaimed app to use in-house.)
Among the inaugural exhibits, the main event will be "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," which amasses nearly 200 artworks of many media in various stages of incompletion by some of the greatest artists of all time, from Titian to Louise Bourgeois. While not wholly contemporary, it is a smart across-the-ages segue to make the Met’s move palatable. By the time that exhibit closes on Sept. 4, the subterranean level restaurant Estela Breuer from the team of Ignacio Mattos and the Thomas Carter will be open (importing some downtown energy to that staid section of Madison Avenue from their quirky and acclaimed Estela on East Houston). Until then, ticketed visitors can caffeinate and snack at a new pop-up coffee shop on the museum’s top floor.
Just across the Bay from BAMPFA, after a renovation that has taken nearly three years, a newfangled San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is set to open May 14 with nearly three times the exhibition space.
The old museum felt insular, as if turning its back to the area South of Market. The new design — with its three entrances, 45,000 square feet of free public space and a new restaurant called Situ, from the chef-owner of the nearby three-starred Michelin restaurant Benu — opens itself up to the neighborhood, which has become the heart of the technology, design and cultural world in San Francisco.
In an interview after a hard-hat tour while the new construction was still a mud pit, SFMOMA’s director Neal Benezra explained a rationale for the expansion: “We are really trying to expand our mission from being one of [just] acquiring, exhibiting and caring for great works of art to one of [also] being a real gathering place for people interested in contemporary visual and creative culture as a social act.”
The opening also is the debut of the new Pritzker Center for Photography, which will be the medium’s biggest space for exhibition and research of any U.S. art museum.
And through a new partnership with the San Francisco Film Society, SFMOMA will offer its first ongoing film program — Modern Cinema — in a newly renovated theater, which is being touted as the best place to screen a film in the Bay Area.