BAM/PFA Acquires Two Video Works in Partnership with MCASD (January 10, 2007)

The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive partners with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego to acquire important works by Joan Jonas and Eija-Liisa Ahtila.

Berkeley, CA, January 10, 2007 -- The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is pleased to announce the joint acquisition with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) of major new works by artists Joan Jonas and Eija-Liisa Ahtila. By combining resources, the two museums have been able to purchase Jonas's The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things (2004/2005) and Ahtila's The Hour of Prayer (2005), both important recent works by artists who are highly sought after by museums and collectors internationally.

In a joint statement, Kevin E. Consey, director of BAM/PFA, and Hugh Davies, the David C. Copley Director of MCASD, stated: "We are extremely pleased to announce this successful partnership. As the international market for contemporary art continues to flourish, this unusual joint acquisition marks an increasingly important trend for small and mid-size institutions seeking to add works by leading artists to their collections. It also demonstrates how, in a competitive field, collaborations can offer museums an innovative opportunity for growth."

BAM/PFA curators first approached MCASD with the idea of jointly acquiring Jonas's The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things in June. MCASD expressed an interest in the work, and also proposed a joint purchase of Ahtila's The Hour of Prayer. The terms of the joint purchase include evenly sharing costs associated with acquiring and maintaining the works, and an agreement that each work will only be shown in one location at a time. Costs for conserving and storing these items will be split between both institutions.

"We are delighted that these exceptional works by Joan Jonas and Eija-Liisa Ahtila will be entering our collection," says Lucinda Barnes, BAM/PFA's deputy director, programs and collections. "BAM/PFA was one of the first museums in the U.S. to begin collecting video art and has continued to add major media-based works over the years. These two works represent very significant additions to our collection -- Jonas as an important early figure and one of long-standing influence in feminist video and performance art, and Ahtila as leading a vibrant new generation of artists."

BAM/PFA has a well-established connection with both artists. In 1982, BAM/PFA presented the first major retrospective of Joan Jonas's work, Joan Jonas: Scripts and Descriptions, 1968 - 1982. Eija-Liisa Ahtila's work was featured at BAM/PFA in 2004 as part of her exhibition for the MATRIX Program for Contemporary Art. These acquisitions will further strengthen BAM/PFA's collection of video art, which includes recently acquired works by Doug Aitken, Shirin Neshat, Jessica Bronson, and Jun-Nguyen Hatsushiba. BAM/PFA also has a history of acquiring and collecting women artists, including recent signature pieces by Jennifer Bartlett and Andrea Zittel.

Jonas's The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things will be exhibited at BAM/PFA in September 2007. Eija-Liisa Ahtila's The Hour of Prayer will be shown in 2008.

Joan Jonas
The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, 2004/2005
Five-channel video installation, edition of three

The seminal video and performance artist Joan Jonas has focused on the performing body and its relationship with media and space since the late 1960s. Her recent installations have grown out of her explorations of how to "re-present" earlier performance-based works. In The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, which consists of five video projections with sound, drawings, photography, and found objects, Jonas creates a kind of stage on which to re-perform and re-investigate her work.

The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things is a reflection on the American Southwest, dating back to a journey the artist made there in the 1960s, when she saw several Hopi rituals. Jonas's installation also responds to an essay she recently read by the German art historian Aby Warburg. Warburg's own nineteenth-century visit to the American Southwest shaped his view of Western art. The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things was first exhibited as an installation with multiple video projections and various props in 2004 at the Renaissance Society in Chicago and Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris. Jonas continued to develop the work, adding live performances with music composed by jazz musician Jason Moran at performances at Dia: Beacon in 2005 and 2006. Footage from these performances is now incorporated into the work.

Jonas has commented that she is interested in "how…stories are retold in modern or contemporary terms and how they can mean something to us. It's something that I've dealt with a lot over the years: how stories come down to us in fragmented forms. For The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, I went to Arizona and I was thinking about memories of the American landscape, by which I mean memories from before the Europeans came here."

The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things was shown at Rosamund Felsen Gallery in Los Angeles in spring 2006. Christopher Knight, art critic for the Los Angeles Times described Jonas's compelling work as "an incomparable guide on our contemporary journey through media and space."

Joan Jonas was born in 1936 in New York, where she currently lives and works. She studied sculpture at the Boston Museum School, and received an M.F.A. in sculpture from Columbia University. She has exhibited and performed extensively throughout North America and Europe since the late 1960s. Her first retrospective was organized by the University Art Museum, Berkeley (now BAM/PFA) in 1982, and she has since had major retrospectives at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1994), the Stadtsgalerie Stuttgart (2000), and The Queens Museum (2002). She also has exhibited in Documenta in 1982 and 2002.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila
The Hour of Prayer, 2005
Four-channel video installation, edition three of five

Using the visual language of cinema, Finnish visual artist and filmmaker Eija-Liisa Ahtila Ahtila creates large-scale installations with split-screen projections on multiple panels. Her narratives unfold in segments of image and language, shifting between real and fictive spaces, exploring the inner lives of her characters and their tenuous shifts between reality and states of mind. Ahtila's practice embraces art and film history as well as critical theory, with strong influences of the films of Ingmar Bergman, Lars von Trier, Werner Fassbinder, and Aki and Mika Kaurismaki.

The Hour of Prayer is Ahtila's most personal work to date, a short tale of attachment and loss based on her own life. The events begin in New York during a winter storm in January and end in Benin, West Africa, eleven months later. While visiting New York in January 2005 Ahtila was stranded in the city in a major snowstorm. She began shooting footage of the snowy streets at night from her hotel window, without script or crew. This was the beginning of what the artist calls "a string of pearls," that ultimately link together in The Hour of Prayer.

The Hour of Prayer was first shown in "The Experience of Art," curated by Maria de Corral for the Italian Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennial. In March 2006 it was shown at the National Museum Wales, in Cardiff, where Ahtila won the Artes Mundi international prize for contemporary art with a human context.

Eija-Liisa Ahtila was born in Hameenlinna, Finland, in 1959. She studied film and video at the School of Media and Management at the London College of Printing from 1990 to 1991, and at UCLA and the American Film Institute in Los Angeles from 1994 to 1995. She has received numerous awards, including an honorable mention at the 1999 Venice Biennale, the Coutts Contemporary Art Foundation Award (Switzerland), and the DAAD prize (Germany), in addition to the 2006 Artes Mundi prize. Ahtila has exhibited extensively, including the Venice Biennale (1997, 1999, and 2005), Documenta 11 (2001), and the Sydney Biennale (2002). Her work is represented in museum collections such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon; LA MoCA; MoMA; the Tate Modern, London; and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. She lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.


The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) aims to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through contemporary and historical art and film, engaging audiences from the campus, Bay Area community, and beyond. BAM/PFA is one of the largest university art museums in the United States in both size and attendance, presenting fifteen art exhibitions and five hundred film programs each year. The museum's collection of more than 15,000 works includes exceptional examples of mid-twentieth-century painting, including important works by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, and Mark Rothko, as well as historical and contemporary Asian art, early American painting, Conceptual and contemporary international art, and California and Bay Area art. The PFA film and video collection now includes the largest group of Japanese films outside of Japan, as well as impressive holdings of Soviet silents, West Coast avant-garde cinema, seminal video art, rare animation, Central Asian productions, Eastern European cinema, and international classics.

Credit Line

The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Additional support is provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Bernard Osher Foundation, Packard Humanities Institute, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Columbia Foundation, the Christensen Fund, the William H. Donner Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Gap Inc., other private foundations and corporations, and our individual donors and members. Major endowment support has been provided by the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation and by George Gund III.

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Posted by admin on January 10, 2007