Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art--2012-04-12.jpg
One of the museum's namesake bridge pavilions
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is located in Arkansas
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Location in Arkansas
Established 11 November 2011 (2011-11-11)[1]
Location 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas
Coordinates 36°22′57″N 94°12′13″W / 36.3825°N 94.203611°W / 36.3825; -94.203611Coordinates: 36°22′57″N 94°12′13″W / 36.3825°N 94.203611°W / 36.3825; -94.203611
Type American art
Founder Alice Walton
Director Rod Bigelow
Architect Moshe Safdie
Nearest car park Garage and surface lot on site (no charge)
Crystal Bridges at dusk

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a museum of American art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The museum, founded by Alice Walton and designed by Moshe Safdie, officially opened on 11 November 2011. It offers free public admission.

Overview and founding[edit]

Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, spearheaded the Walton Family Foundation's involvement in developing Crystal Bridges. The museum's glass-and-wood design by architect Moshe Safdie and engineer Buro Happold features a series of pavilions nestled around two creek-fed ponds. The complex includes 217,000 square feet (20,200 m2) of galleries, several meeting and classroom spaces, a library, a sculpture garden, a gift shop designed by architect Marlon Blackwell, a restaurant and coffee bar, named Eleven after the day the museum opened "11/11/11".[2] Crystal Bridges also features a gathering space that can accommodate up to 300 people. Additionally, there are outdoor areas for concerts and public events, as well as extensive nature trails. It employs approximately 300 people, and is within walking distance of downtown Bentonville.[3]

The museum has amassed $488 million in assets as of August 2008, an amount that will increase as more pieces are continually added to the museum's collection.[4] It is the first major art museum (over $200 million endowment) to open in the United States since 1974. Over $317 million of the project's cost has been donated by Alice Walton.[4] A 2013 Forbes' ranking of the world's richest people placed the Wal-Mart heiress at No. 16, with an estimated net worth of $26.3 billion.[5]

In 2005, art historian John Wilmerding was hired for acquisition and advice on museum programming.[6] Wilmerding commented that Alice Walton "will not spend at any cost" and will do her "homework on almost every individual acquisition and will ask for paperwork on market comparables".[7] He stated that often when an artwork became available through a private sale Walton would state ‘Wait, it will come to auction where we can get it at a better price,’ and she was usually correct.[8] He also stated that the museum ranks at least in the top half dozen of American art museums. The museum's "quality and its range and depth already place it among one of the very best."[7]

Headlines were generated after delays in construction and considerably higher costs for the museum than originally proposed to the city of Bentonville, Arkansas led to concerns about the favorable tax exemptions granted to the museum from the state in 2005 to secure its construction.[9] Total tax losses to the state of Arkansas and the city of Bentonville are estimated at $17 million based on the financial disclosures given by the museum in the 2008 court case with Fisk University.[9] The total amount of tax loss is estimated to have become considerably higher since then, but may never be disclosed due to the museum's guarded financial practices, including its decision not to disclose the amount spent since 2008 to secure collections, major art pieces, and lesser known works.[10][better source needed] However, the museum's IRS Form 990-PF notes acquisitions of $43.6 million during 2008, $81.9 million during 2007, $97.3 million in 2006. Through 2008, the total art acquisitions were at least $222.8 million.[7]

Don Bacigalupi was appointed director of the museum in August 2009.[11] Previously, Robert G. Workman had served as director.[12] In early May 2011, the museum announced three endowments by the Walton Family Foundation totaling $800 million. These endowments were established for operating expenses, acquisitions and capital improvements. The operating endowment, totaling $350 million, is being used to contribute to the museum's base annual operating expenses expected to total between $16–20 million per year. The acquisition endowment, totaling $325 million, will be used to fund additions to the museum's permanent collection. The remaining $125 million will be used as a capital improvement endowment to fund future improvements to and maintenance of the museum.[13]

Collaboration with other museums and institutions[edit]

Portrait of Professor Benjamin H. Rand (1874) by Thomas Eakins
Walker Landing plaza between galleries

In the past few years, Crystal Bridges has been in the news for numerous arrangements and partnerships with other art museums to share collections.

In 2006, the museum partnered with the National Gallery of Art in an attempt to purchase Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic from Thomas Jefferson University. Under the terms of the agreement, the two museums agreed to pay a record $68 million, but the university gave Philadelphia 45 days to match the offer. The Philadelphia Museum of Art and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts agreed to collectively match the offer and the painting remained in Philadelphia. The purchase forced both museums to sell some of their best Eakins pieces including Cowboy Singing and the The Cello Player.[14] In April 2007, Crystal Bridges acquired another Eakins belonging to Thomas Jefferson University entitled Portrait of Professor Benjamin H. Rand for an estimated $20 million.[15]

Walton held talks with Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia in spring of 2007. The college was exploring selling part of the Maier Museum of Art's collection, but voted instead to sell select items from the collection at Christie's.[16]

In 2006, Fisk University agreed to sell a 50% stake in a 101 piece Stieglitz collection to Crystal Bridges for $30 million. The collection was donated to the university by Georgia O'Keeffe in 1949. This agreement became tied up in a legal battle between Fisk and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in New Mexico,[17] but the museum withdrew its lawsuit. The Tennessee Attorney General attempted unsuccessfully to stop the sale. In October 2010, a judge ruled that a 50% stake in the collection could be sold to Crystal Bridges if modifications to the contract were made so that Fisk University could not lose its interest in the collection, nor could the joint venture holding ownership of the collection between Fisk University and Crystal Bridges be based in Delaware (or outside Tennessee Courts). The modified agreement would allow the works to stay at Fisk University until 2013 and then begin a two-year rotation with Crystal Bridges.[18] In April 2012, the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision to allow the sale to move forward. A few months later on 2 August, The Davidson County Chancery Court approval a Final Agreed Order that establish joint ownership between Fisk and Crystal Bridges through the newly established Stieglitz Art Collection, LLC. The operating agreement required Fisk to set aside $3.9 million of the $30 million sale proceeds to be used to establish a fund for the care and maintenance of the collection at the Carl Van Vechten Gallery at Fisk.[19][20] The court dispute cost Fisk $5.8 million in legal fees.[21]

Since 2012, Crystal Bridges has participated in a four-year collaboration with the musée du Louvre in Paris, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. The resulting exhibitions are called American Encounters and feature works from the collections of all four partners. Each year, for the length of the collaboration, the museums develop the exhibition around a theme, such as portraiture. American Encounters has been seen in Paris, Bentonville, and Atlanta.

Permanent collection[edit]

Pavilion of restaurant "Eleven" with the main lobby building and 19th-century galleries at left

The museum's permanent collection features American art from the Colonial era to contemporary work. All of the featured artists are United States citizens, though some spent most of their art careers in Europe. Notable works include a Charles Willson Peale portrait of George Washington as well as paintings by George Bellows, Jasper Cropsey, Asher Durand, Thomas Eakins, Marsden Hartley, Winslow Homer, Eastman Johnson, Charles Bird King, John LaFarge, Stuart Davis, Romare Bearden, Norman Rockwell, Mary McCleary, Agnes Pelton, and Walton Ford. Also included are works by Chuck Close, Jasper Johns, Alfred Maurer, Jackson Pollock and Tom Wesselman.[8][22] Two works, Richard Caton Woodville's War News from Mexico and Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait's The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix were included in American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765–1915, a traveling exhibition organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[23] The Woodville painting was deaccessioned by the National Academy of Design, and was purchased in 1994 by Detroit collector Richard Manoogian. The piece was later purchased in 2004 by Crystal Bridges.[24]

In May 2005, the museum purchased a coveted Asher B. Durand landscape entitled Kindred Spirits from the New York Public Library for more than $35 million in a sealed auction.[25] In September 2012, the museum announced the acquisition of a major 1960 painting by Mark Rothko entitled No. 210/No. 211 (Orange). The abstract expressionist painting had been in a private Swiss collection since the 1960s and had only been shown in public twice.[26]

Sculpture also figures prominently in the collection, on view in interior galleries and along outdoor sculpture trails. Sculptors represented in the permanent collection include Paul Manship, Roxy Paine, Mark di Suvero, and James Turrell.

Select auction results by date for items in the collection (including buyer's premium) are:

In January 2014 Crystal Bridge acquired the Bachman Wilson House by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The New Jersey house was dismantled and relocated to Bentonville.[69][70]

Selected works in the museum collection by chronologic order[edit]


  1. ^ Christopher Spencer (18 November 2010), Crystal Bridges in Bentonville to open 11.11.11, archived from the original on 29 June 2011 
  2. ^ "Eleven". Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Top Ten Most Expensive Projects Worth $369.5 Million". The Northwest Arkansas Morning News. 1 January 2006. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b Making change at WalMart[dead link]
  5. ^ Luisa Kroll (March 4, 2013). "Inside The 2013 Billionaires List: Facts and Figures". Forbes. Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  6. ^ Carol Vogel (14 May 2005). "A Determined Heiress Plots An Art Collection". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ a b c Jan Cottingham (12 July 2010), "Crystal Bridges Collection Turns Toward The Modern", Arkansas Business 
  8. ^ a b Carol Vogel (16 June 2011). "A Billionaire’s Eye for Art Shapes Her Singular Museum". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ a b Evie Blad (8 March 2010). "Taxes lost on museum unclear Crystal Bridges exemptions will pay off, officials say". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock). 
  10. ^ "Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art - Page 12 - Northwest Arkansas". Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  11. ^ Randy Kennedy (17 August 2009). "Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas Names a New Director". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Press release, "Robert G. Workman named Executive Director", 2 February 2006
  13. ^ Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Announces Endowment Gifts from Walton Family Foundation retrieved 2 July 2011[dead link]
  14. ^ Vogel, Carol (24 April 2008), Philadelphia Raises Enough Money to Retain a Masterpiece by Eakins, The New York Times, retrieved 20 September 2010 
  15. ^ Vogel, Carol (12 April 2007), Philadelphia School Sells a Second Eakins, The New York Times, retrieved 24 September 2010 
  16. ^ Vogel, Carol (2 October 2007), A Southern College to Sell Prized Paintings, The New York Times, retrieved 25 September 2010 
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  18. ^ Kennedy, Randy (11 October 2010), Fisk University in New Bid to Gain Approval to Sell Art, The New York Times, retrieved 12 October 2010 
  19. ^ Pogrebin, Robin (3 August 2012), Legal Battle Over Fisk University Art Collection Ends, The New York Times, retrieved 5 August 2012 
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  21. ^ Allyn, Bobby (4 August 2012), Fisk finalizes deal to sell half-stake of Alfred Stieglitz collection in end to long fight, half-stake sold to Arkansas museum, The Tennessean, retrieved 5 August 2012 
  22. ^ Mead, Rebecca (27 June 2011), Alice's Wonderland: A Walmart heiress build a museum in the Ozarks, New York: The New Yorker 
  23. ^ The Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site, "American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915
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  25. ^ Vogel, Carol (14 May 2005), A Determined Heiress Plots an Art Collection, The New York Times, retrieved 25 September 2010 
  26. ^ Dobrzynski, Judith H. (22 September 2012), A Rothko Fills a Museum's Breach, The Wall Street Journal, retrieved 27 September 2012 
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  60. ^ Peacock, Leslie Newell (17 June 2011), Eyes Candy, The Arkansas Times, retrieved 20 June 2011 
  61. ^ retrieved 26 March 2013
  62. ^ a b Dobrzynski, Judith H. (21 March 2013), Crystal Bridges answers criticism with post-war acquisitions, The Art Newspaper, retrieved 26 March 2013 
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  69. ^ "Frank Lloyd Wright". Retrieved 23 July 2014. 
  70. ^ "Bachman Wilson House". Retrieved 23 July 2014. 

External links[edit]