The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) has announced Dr. Elaine Yau as Associate Curator for the Eli Leon Collection, which comprises nearly three thousand African American quilts bequeathed to the museum in 2018. Yau, who co-curated the museum’s acclaimed retrospective of Rosie Lee Tompkins earlier in 2020, will oversee all cataloguing, research, and exhibition of the historic collection.
“I believe it’s imperative—now more than ever—that we keep recognizing the breadth of artworks made in the United States and the diverse stories behind them.”
The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive has appointed Dr. Elaine Yau to a new curatorial position focused on the Eli Leon Collection, a bequest of nearly three thousand African American quilts that entered the museum’s holdings in 2018. Yau’s appointment establishes the first professional curatorship dedicated to this collection, which is believed to be the largest of its kind ever assembled. As the inaugural Associate Curator for the Eli Leon Living Trust Collection of African American Quilts, Yau will focus on research and an exhibition of these extensive holdings, which now comprise fifteen percent of BAMPFA’s art collection.
Though it is widely known among scholars of African American art, Eli Leon’s collection has never been formally cataloged, and it was exhibited only sporadically during his lifetime. After Leon donated the collection to BAMPFA upon his passing in 2018, the museum secured a $500,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support a comprehensive program of cataloging, conservation, research, and exhibition for these holdings. Yau’s position, which is funded for three years through the Luce Foundation grant, will oversee all of these activities and create new opportunities for scholarship and public engagement with these understudied works.