This spring, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) welcomes its community of artists and supporters to the second-annual Art and Film Benefit, on Saturday, May 6th.
This festive event will honor two path-breaking creatives with deep ties to the Bay Area: filmmaker and artist Cauleen Smith and conceptual artist and photographer Catherine Wagner. For the first time, BAMPFA will hold its annual gala fundraiser inside the museum’s downtown Berkeley home, which was designed by Diller Scofidio + Refro and opened in 2016.
“As renowned artists and educators, Catherine and Cauleen have pushed the social, aesthetic, and conceptual boundaries of their fields and paved the way for many others,” said BAMPFA’s executive director, Julie Rodrigues Widholm. “I am deeply honored that we have this chance to celebrate them.”
Cauleen Smith is a Los Angeles–based artist whose innovative work in film, video and installation has opened portals to new narratives around Black aesthetics and Afro-futurism for 30 years. Her acclaimed 1998 feature debut, Drylongso, set and shot on location in Oakland, is returning to BAMPFA on the big screen on Sunday, May 7th, in a 4K restoration undertaken by the Criterion Collection, Janus Films, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
At BAMPFA’s benefit, artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa will offer a special tribute to Smith. Renowned as a black culture theorist, Jafa’s film work ranges from Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust and Spike Lee’s Crooklyn to the acclaimed short film “Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death.” In 2018 Jafa received the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion award for best artist for his video The White Album, an unsparing portrait of whiteness in contemporary America that was commissioned for and premiered in BAMPFA’s MATRIX program.
From left: Artists Cauleen Smith and Catherine Wagner.(Joshua Franzos, Phil Bond)
Catherine Wagner is a Bay Area native whose award-winning photographic work has pushed the physical and conceptual limitations of photography as a medium for decades. Wagner’s process of observing the built environment as a metaphor for how we construct our cultural identities is poignantly brought to light in her etched glass installation documenting the development of the Moscone Center neighborhood between 1978 and 1984, unveiled as one of 10 public art in SF’s monumental new Central Subway stations in November 2022. With recent solo shows at Jessica Silverman Gallery and Crown Point Press, her work is part of the permanent collection at SFMOMA, the Tate Modern in London, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and many other museums around the world. Connie Butler, Chief Curator of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, will offer Wagner’s tribute at the event.
BAMPFA’s 2023 Art and Film Benefit follows the inauguration last spring of the new event concept, which reimagined the museum’s annual fundraising gala as a tribute to two luminaries from the worlds of film and visual art. The 2022 event honored the renowned experimental filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha and pioneering artist Amalia Mesa-Bains, who is currently receiving her first career retrospective at BAMPFA through July 23rd. The inaugural Art and Film Benefit included more than 250 friends and supporters of the museum, including many notable artists including Sadie Barnette, Tammy Rae Carland, Woody De Othello, Mildred Howard, George McCalman, Jim Melchert, Adia Millett, Michele Pred, Stephanie Syjuco, Lava Thomas, Leila Weefur, Lena Wolff, and Wanxin Zhang among many others.
The celebration on May 6th will include a cocktail reception and exhibition viewing, followed by a festive dinner and program held in BAMPFA’s downstairs galleries. Proceeds from this event will play a vital role in supporting the full scope of programs and exhibitions at BAMPFA, including transformational encounters with art and film and unique educational opportunities for thousands of U.C. Berkeley students each year.
A limited number of tickets are still available for the big night, but seats are going fast. You can reserve a ticket today by visiting bampfa.org/gala.
Scenes from BAMPFA's 2022 gala. (Monica Semergiu)