Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the new Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. Founded in 2005 by Alice Walton, as in the Walmart family Waltons, the museum boasts an incredible collection of American Art considering the short time frame in which the collection has emerged. The museum opened early this year, and projected attendance in their first year to reach approximately 250,000 visitors. To date, over 440,000 people have visited – pretty incredible for a town with a population of 35,000 in (basically) the middle of nowhere.
The building itself was designed by renowned Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. Safdie created an incredible structure that organically blends into the gorgeous landscape, with numerous pavilions nested within two creek-fed ponds to house the collection. The views and atmosphere are breathtaking. In addition to the fact that the museum’s honorable mission is to bring world-class art to the people of Arkansas who might otherwise never get a chance to experience it, the cost of entry is subsidized by Walmart and, thus, free to the public.
Walton’s team of advisors and experts are actively working to acquire works to help fill some wholes within the collection. For example, some of the big American abstract expressionists, like deKooning and Pollock, are unrepresented (they do have an early Pollock on view, but not one of his epytomous drip paintings). That being said, what they have managed to acquire since Walton announced her plans for the museum in 2005 is astounding, and I highly recommend making the trip if you are an art lover of any kind. Below are a few pictures I took while there (and two major pieces of art I forgot to take a picture of!).