Peter Selz, the founding director of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive from 1965 to 1973, died June 22 in Berkeley. He was 100.
Selz, a Jewish-German immigrant who fled Nazi Germany for the United States in 1936, went on to become “one of the most distinguished scholars and curators of the postwar art scene,” BAMPFA noted in a news release, establishing friendships with such influential artists as Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Sam Francis and Christo.
Selz accepted an invitation from the University of California in 1965 to become the founding director of the the University Art Museum, which later evolved into the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive.
During his tenure, “Selz was intimately involved in shaping the institution literally from the ground up-from engaging the renowned architect Mario Ciampi to design the iconic modernist building to partnering with the film director and scholar Sheldon Renan to establish the Pacific Film Archive at the heart of the museum’s program,” BAMPFA said.
He was honored with a 100th birthday party at BAMPFA in April.
“Peter Selz was a remarkable individual whose contributions to BAMPFA, UC Berkeley, and the broader art world are too numerous to count,” BAMPFA director and chief curator Lawrence Rinder said in a statement. “Over the course of his tenure as our founding director, Peter transformed BAMPFA from a modest university art collection into the internationally renowned art and film institution it is today.”
Selz is survived by his fifth wife, Carole Schemmerling Selz; daughters Tanya Selz and Gabrielle Selz from his first marriage, to Thalia Cheronis Selz; stepdaughters Mia Baldwin and Kryssa Schemmerling; and grandson, Theo Mync.