Bold, Beautiful: Exhibit Showcases Highlights of the Berkus Family Art Collection | Culture & Leisure


Posted on October 30, 2022
| 12:42 p.m.

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“Cake Dome Showcase” by David Ireland. (David Ireland)

The Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art shares the art treasure collected by the late Barry Berkus, architect, urban planner, watercolourist and author, in A Bold and Unconventional Collector: Highlights from the Barry Berkus Family Collection, which will be on view Nov 17 .-dec. 12.

A free opening reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 17 at the museum.

Born in Los Angeles in 1935, Berkus grew up in Pasadena before pursuing his undergraduate studies at UCSB. He then studied architecture, graduating from the USC School of Architecture. He returned to Santa Barbara in the 1970s to open a practice.

During his career, he created two design firms: B3 Architects and Berkus Design Studio. At their peak, its architectural firms numbered over 200 architects with offices in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Tokyo, and Kuala Lumpur.

Berkus loved art – especially the art of his time. He attends museum and gallery openings, always open to learning, meeting artists and buying works that catch his eye. He was an intrepid collector, drawn to the most avant-garde pieces of an artist’s work.

“He favored experimental art – art that explored unusual ideas,” said Jeff Berkus, Barry’s son, who is also an architect, “He was a bold and unconventional art collector.”

Barry Berkus, who died in 2017, collected the works of David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol. But he also loved finding new talent – ​​international artists who might not yet be big names in the United States.

Berkus has also supported Santa Barbara artists, buying works from designers like Tony Askew, Marie Schoeff, Dane Goodman, Wayne McCall, Keith Puccinelli, Mary Heebner and Marge Dunlap.

The exhibition highlights selections from a major gift from the Berkus family collection to the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art, as well as purchases made from the Berkus collection and notable pieces remaining in the family’s collection Berkus.

“The Berkus family had the daunting task of caring for Barry’s huge art collection after his death,” said Judy L. Larson, Askew art history professor and director of the museum. “What I love about the gifts the family has given to Westmont is the variety and quality of talented performers from around the world.

“As an architect, Berkus’ eye turned to works rooted in architecture like Iwan Baan, Stephen Talisnek, Michael Kenna and Benjamin Edwards.”

Larson is most impressed by a stunning large canvas by British painter John Walker, an abstract expressionist work by Michael David, and a photograph of an earthly work of art by Andy Goldsworthy who visited Santa Barbara at the invitation of Berkus.

“What I respect about Berkus is that he trusted his own eye,” said Chris Rupp, curator and head of collections. “As an architect, he had modernist sensibilities and this carried over to his collection. He was not someone who followed collecting trends, but sought out innovative artists who appealed to him personally.

“His enthusiasm for contemporary art was contagious,” said Tony Askew, who owns a piece in the Berkus collection. “It was always a pleasure talking with Barry about what was happening in the art world. He seemed to be sparkling with enthusiasm about a new artist he had met or a work he had just purchased.


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