Berkeley Art Museum will reopen 3 days a week in May with reduced admission

Visitors will be able to view the spectacular retrospective of the quilts of Rosie Lee Tompkins, an exhibit once scheduled to close in December.

BAMPFA will reopen May 2. Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro and BAMPFA

In a sign that COVID-19 is lessening its grip, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) announced today that it is reopening Sunday, May 2, 13 months after it shut its doors.

The museum will be open three days a week — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — and will reduce its ticket prices from $14 to $10, implement a timed-ticket system, require face masks, and limit occupancy to 25% capacity, among other safety measures.

“As BAMPFA begins the process of safely reopening this spring, we’ll be doing so with an enormous sense of appreciation for the dedicated community of art and film lovers who have stayed connected with the museum throughout this tumultuous year,” recently hired BAMPFA Director Julie Rodrigues Widholm said in a statement. “We believe that art can provide respite during uncertain times, and in that spirit, we’re looking forward to offering our audiences a space for joy and reflection.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this week that California would end its color-coded tier system on June 15 and most businesses would be able to open at 100% capacity then. Face masks would still be widely required though.


A quilt made by Rosie Lee Tompkins on display at the Berkeley Art Museum. Photo: BAMPFA

Visitors to the museum will be able to view the spectacular retrospective of the quilts of Rosie Lee Tompkins, an exhibit the New York Times called “a life-changing, history-altering exhibition.” Berkeleyside’s reviewer called it “an extraordinary exhibition.” The show was only open for a month when the coronavirus forced BAMPFA to shutter. It was scheduled to close on Dec. 20, 2020. BAMPFA has extended the exhibit through July 18.

The Pacific Film Archive movie theatre is not reopening yet. Throughout much of the pandemic, the PFA has been streaming its movies. The museum has also been offering a program of live virtual events.

In addition to the Rosie Lee Tompkins retrospective, BAMPFA’s reopening marks the launch of three major new exhibitions that were installed during the museum’s closure:

  • Ulrike Ottinger / MATRIX 276: A new exhibition of photography by Ulrike Ottinger, a German filmmaker, visual artist, and stage director. As a photographer, Ottinger is witness to a world in transition, documenting places and settings that are imbued with a sense of history and cultural customs.
  • Beyond Boundaries: Buddhist Art of Gandhara: A presentation of extremely rare Buddhist artifacts from the ancient civilization of Gandhara, which existed in what is today Northern India from the second through ninth centuries CE. The first North American exhibition in more than a decade to focus on Gandharan art, “Beyond Boundaries” features early depictions of the Buddha and his life story, which reflect distinctive artistic influences from the region’s cultural exchanges with the Hellenistic world of Greece and Rome.
  • Present Tense: Five Centuries of Colonialism in Latin American and Caribbean Art: A student-curated group exhibition of Latin American art from the BAMPFA collection that explores the complicated impact of colonialism in Central and South America, as depicted in the work of contemporary artists who reexamine these painful histories to address the injustices of the present day.” Present Tense” is the latest in BAMPFA’s Cal Conversations program, a series of exhibitions developed in collaboration with UC Berkeley classes.

The large-scale mural, “Affordable Housing for Trans Elders,” a site-specific installation in the front lobby stairwell by the artist Edie Flake, is also on display.

To express appreciation for the Bay Area community after a tough year, the museum will waive admission fees on May 2. The museum is also inviting essential workers, those who work in healthcare, emergency services, public transit, grocery stores, and delivery services, to attend for free on Saturday, May 1. Those visitors must present a work ID.

There will also be free preview days for BAMPFA members and UC Berkeley students, faculty and staff on April 30 and May 1.

For the foreseeable future, the museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The first hour of each Saturday is reserved exclusively for members.

Frances Dinkelspiel is co-founder and executive editor of Berkeleyside. Email: frances@citysidejournalism.org.