Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh Woe! $140 Million Dollar Berkeley Museum a No-Go

Given the current economic mess, this is a wise decision. We have 12%+ unemployment and UC's Regents have just raised student fees by 32%. As a painter and an art blogger, of course, I'd love to see a new museum but, lacking a new WPA, sometimes there are other priorities.

What I'd like to see is a good floor plan of the inside of the museum. The Bay Area has several "new" or "newish" museums and they do a poor job of displaying the art. The new Jewish Contemporary Museum has an expensive, stainless steel gizmo attached on one side of the old building. It has two floors, one of which is used for a gift shop. Now, that doesn't seem like a very good use of expensive space. Furthermore, the fancy architecture can't be seen because it's crammed along side a small alley with large buildings on either side. So, what's the point? As an artist, of course I'd prefer that there be more space for art. As an art historian, I wish that what art they have could be better displayed. The same goes for the current Berkeley Art Museum. Outside it looks like a huge concrete bunker. Inside - it looks like a huge concrete bunker. Traditional paintings are overwhelmed in this cold space; even works of contemporary painters like Howard Hodgkins don't show well when hung against a huge concrete wall. Not even Hans Hoffman's huge flamboyant pieces show up that well when they have to compete with the vast atrium space in the middle of the museum. Our new De Young Museum still looks like a Stalinist prison from the outside and the inside foyer is three ceilings high. Where is the room for the art? Anybody else care to comment?

Toyo Ito's visiton for the new home of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive whould have cost $143 million. Photo: Kuramochi / Jeanne Collins & Assoc.

BERKELEY, CA.- The University of California, Berkeley’s plans for a new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) are being modified due to lingering economic uncertainty, museum and university officials announced. Several intriguing concepts for a new BAM/PFA home are under review and a detailed plan is expected to be unveiled early next year, said Lawrence Rinder, the director of BAM/PFA, which is one of the largest university art museums in the United States in both size and attendance. Rinder emphasized that the university and BAM/PFA will remain committed to building a new facility on university property at the corner of Center and Oxford streets, on the edge of Berkeley’s burgeoning theater and arts district.

“Our goal has not changed,” said Rinder. “We will create a remarkable new home for the museum. I’m confident we will find an innovative and affordable solution that advances our mission to inspire the imagination through art and film.”

He pointed to continued commitment from lead donors and trustees of BAM/PFA, who are embracing the decision by campus and museum leadership to modify the building project.

“The creation of a new home for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in downtown Berkeley continues to be a crucial step in UC Berkeley’s longstanding commitment to the visual arts and to engagement with our broader community,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. “While the architectural plans will change, what will not change is our shared goal of building a dynamic, welcoming, and seismically safe new museum at the corner of Center and Oxford streets.”

“Art is educational for students and children of all ages. We’re determined to achieve our goal of a new museum in downtown Berkeley; I couldn’t be more excited about our future,” said Barclay Simpson, chair of the BAM/PFA Board of Trustees.

A structural analysis found that BAM/PFA’s current space on Bancroft Way was seismically inadequate and led to the 1999 relocation of the Pacific Film Archive Theater to temporary campus quarters that it still occupies. A partial seismic retrofitting of the museum in 2001 has enabled BAM/PFA to stay open during planning for a new facility.

Toyo Ito & Associates, a Japanese architecture firm known for its innovative concepts and structural approaches, was brought on in 2006 to design a new museum. Toyo Ito’s design for BAM/PFA met with critical support and enthusiasm in arts and architecture circles and efforts were underway to raise private funds to pay for most of the $200 million campaign.

However, university and museum leaders said that, in the current economic climate, modifying the project’s proposed scope and expense by moving on to a new design is the only way to ensure BAM/PFA remains on track for a new museum.

Lee Rosembaum of Culture Girl has a piece up


namastenancy said...

The post that I just removed is a reminder to me to check out all "unknown" posters. They claimed to be from the U of Delaware and I got all excited and accepted the comment. Then, I had second thoughts and went back to check. Sure enough, it was a cheesy Internet sex site calling itself the U of D "love connection. " Well, if you fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Delete. Deleting. Deleted.

Peter said...

Do you remember the Andersen’s fairytale “The Emperor’s new clothes”? The Emperor was participating in the procession naked but nobody dared to admit it. Everyone not only pretended to not notice, but even complemented the Emperor’s new clothes. Only a child, who did not know anything about hypocrisy yet, shouted: “Hey look! The Emperor is naked!”. Only after that everyone agreed.
For my twenty years practice of architectural design, I witnessed this story happening again and again. It takes the naiveté of a child to shout: “The Emperor is naked!”
I am tired of shouting and not being heard. Thank you for joining.