If the aim of Berkeley Art Museum’s L@te Friday night events is to generate some buzz, the museum has succeeded. Last night’s event had the energy of a good cocktail party, which seemed to be picking up steam at 8:30. (I bet they had to shoo people out at the 9 p.m. closing — I can picture the event hosts yawning, collecting glasses, bringing out coats. …)

The crowd of 200 or so, including some kids, were among the first to try out the new BAMscape sculpture-slash-seating area. As designer Thom Faulders explained, BAMscape includes power outlets so that visitors can settle in on it and plug in their laptops. Part of the installation’s aim is to lure Cal students in from campus across the street.

The hum of the crowd and the music in the lobby made wandering the galleries more fun—lightening the reverent, “I’m looking at serious art, therefore I am serious” attitude that seems obligatory for most museum visits.

If you haven’t been to BAM recently, go before next Sunday, February 7, when the Fernando Botero and Ari Marcopoulos exhibits close. Botero’s series of paintings, based on a written account of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, is definitely strong stuff—there’s a reason this exhibit is tucked away on the top floor.

Marcopoulos’s photos and video are arresting in a completely different way. I was reminded of Robert Frank’s “The Americans” more than once by these photos’ earthy subjects and beautiful, classical composition. The portraits of Keith Haring and Robert Mapplethorpe gave me a twinge of nostalgia.

The about-to-open James Castle exhibit, with lots of booklike objects, is an intriguing reason to come back for another Friday night—maybe on February 12, for the Marker Dance Party, with KALX DJs and drawing on the (papered) walls.

BAM is holding L@te events most Friday nights, and admission is $5 after 5 p.m.

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