With support from the Foundation’s American Art program, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) will catalog, conserve, and exhibit its historic collection of African American Quilts, bequeathed to the museum by scholar and collector Eli Leon. Most of the pieces have never been seen by the public, and the museum’s efforts aim to make the collection more accessible to both researchers and the public.
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) has received a major grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support the Eli Leon Collection, a historic bequest of African American quilts that the museum received in 2018. The $500,000 grant will support the cataloging, conservation, and exhibition of this collection of nearly three thousand works, which is believed to be the largest of its kind ever assembled.
BAMPFA received the collection from Eli Leon, a prominent art collector and scholar who donated his holdings to the museum upon his death in 2018. This transformative bequest marked one of the largest gifts of African American art ever donated to a US museum, enlarging BAMPFA’s holdings by fifteen percent and establishing an unparalleled area of strength in its encyclopedic collection. Among other highlights, the bequest includes more than five hundred works by the internationally renowned artist Rosie Lee Tompkins, many of which were included in a major retrospective that recently opened at BAMPFA; the exhibition is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but has been extended through December 20, 2020.