Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – Bentonville, Arkansas

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was the created by Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart. It is in Bentonville, Arkansas, the home base of Walmart. The museum features American art from the Colonial period to contemporary. All of the artists are United States citizens, although many are known for their work in Europe. It opened on November 11, 2011. Admission is free, courtesy of Walmart.

The museum structure itself is a work of art. It was designed by architect Moshe Safdie with Buro Happold as the engineer. It is built over and along a creek in a ravine. The museum is a series of connected “pavilions”. Two of the pavilions are constructed as suspension bridges. One of the bridges sits over a weir which forms the lake and creates a waterfall when the lake overflows. The walls of the pavilions along the creek follow the contours of the ravine and are tied into rock as retaining walls. This creates a sense of continuous movement with nature inside and out.

The materials used in the construction are primarily concrete, glass and local wood. The exposed ceiling beams throughout the museum are thin pieces of wood formed to fit the ceiling and then laminated together with epoxy to form the massive curved ceiling beams supported by suspension cables. The roofs of each building have a different shape.

Three of the pavilions house the permanent art collection and a hands-on art studio for artists of all ages. Another houses temporary exhibits and a library. The restaurant and coffee shop occupy the “bridge” over the weir and offers a fabulous view of the lake. Another pavilion contains a Great Hall which can accommodate up to 300 people. There are as many as four floors in one of the pavilions but most are single story.

There are entrances at many levels. I came in the main entrance at the top of the ravine. I looked down into an open center courtyard to see a giant spider sculpture. When I got to courtyard level I saw it had eggs in its mesh egg sac.

In addition to the art inside the building there are plenty of things to see and do outside. A Frank Lloyd Wright designed home has been restored and relocated next door to the museum. The north forest is currently home to Color Field, an outdoor sculpture exhibition. There is a mile long Art Trail that includes landscaping and outdoor sculpture and ends in downtown Bentonville. I spent six hours there and still did not see everything. That just means I have to come back!

In 2013 Crystal Bridges acquired a Frank Lloyd Wright home that was built in 1954 for the Bachman-Wilsons. It was originally built along the Millstone River in New Jersey. It had been threatened there by repeated flooding and its owners finally decided the way to save it would be to sell it to an institution willing to relocate and preserve it.

This home was one of about 60 “Usonian” homes Wright designed as “democratic style of residential architecture” he developed during the Great Depression. It was much smaller and simpler than any other Wright-designed homes I have seen. The front of the home has no windows to provide privacy to the occupants in a neighborhood with small lots but the rear of the house includes a living area with floor to ceiling windows and plenty of windows in the kitchen.

The home has three small bedrooms. The two upstairs bedrooms both have a covered outdoor deck but there is only one full bath. The upstairs is accessed (not opened to the public) by a very narrow set of stairs and has a mezzanine overlooking the living area. The downstairs has a guest bedroom next to a carport. There is a small kitchen and half bath. A built-in dining table runs along the wall between the kitchen and the living room.

Below is a sampling of the art in the permanent collection of Crystal Bridges.

Top Row: Florida Mexicana by Alfredo Ramos Martinez, 1936, oil on canvas; George Washington by Charles Wilson Peale, 1780-82, oil on canvas; George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797, oil on canvas Next Row: William Smith by Gilbert Stuart, 1801-02, oil on canvas; Three by Charles King Bird, all oil on panel top: Shaumonekusse, Oto Half Chief (husband of Eagle of Delight), 1822 bottom: Portrait of John Ridge, 1825 and right: Wakechai (Crouching Eagle) Saukie Chief,1824 Third Row: Niagara and the Rapids by John Vanderlyn, 1801-02, oil on paper mounted on board Fourth Row: Mrs. Theodore Atkinson, Jr. (Frances Deering Wentworth) by John Singleton Copley, 1765, oil on canvas; Wild Turkey Cock, Hen and Young by John James Audubon, 1826, oil on linen Fifth Row: Three by Joseph Decker (1853-1924) all oil on board from top: Boy Eating Berries, Boy Smoking, Boy at Dentist – no date; Union Refugees by George W. Pettit, 1865, oil on canvas Sixth Row: War News from Mexico by Richard Caton Woodville, 1848, oil on canvas; A Tight Fix – Bear Hunting, Early Winter by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, 1856, oil on canvas; Indian Encampment by Albert Bierstadt, 1862, oil on canvas; from The Gems of Brazil series by Martin Johnson Heade, 1863-64, oil on canvas Seventh Row: from The Gems of Brazil series by Martin Johnson Heade, 1863-64, oil on canvas; Sunset on the River by George Inness, 1867, oil on canvas; Seaside Flowers by William Merritt Chase, 1897, oil on canvas Eighth Row: Summer Day by Frank Weston Benson, 1911, oil on canvas; Cliff Dwellers by George Wesley Bellows, 1911, oil on canvas; World’s Columbian Exposition by Theodore Robinson, 1894 [Chicago World’s Fair]; Dolly Parton by Andy Warhol, 1985, synthetic polymer and screen print on canvas Last Row: Airborne by Andrew Wyeth, 1996, tempera on panel; Home by the Lake by Fredrick Edwin Church, 1852, oil on canvas

Top Row: Monochrome II by Nancy Rubins, 2010-18, stainless steel, stainless steel wire and aluminum (recycle canoes and small boats); Here by Sarah Braman, 2019, concrete drainage pipe, powder-coated aluminum frames and laminated glass; Negative Space by Odili Donald Odita, 2019, series of 13 flags and flagpoles 2nd Row: Untitled (Maze) by Sam Falls, 2014, powdered-coated aluminum and steel hardware; Kitty by Jeffie Brewer, 2019; ZIGGURAT by Marshall Brown, 2016, Alusion foamed aluminum panels on wood 3rd Row: Flowers that Bloom Now by Yoyoi Kusama, 2017, stainless steel and urethane paint; Back to Kansas by Spencer Finch, 2015, exterior household paint on canvas; PoP by Jeffie Brewer, 2017 4th Row: Deer by Tony Tasset, 2015, fiberglass, epoxy and paint; Dancing in Nigeria by Melvin Edwards, 1974-78, paint on welded steel in two pairs; Fiori Boat by Dale Chihuly, 2016, blown glass and steel Last Row: Gigaff by Jeffie Brewer, 2019; Sole d’Oro by Dale Chihuly, 2017, blown glass and steel, Untitled (Wind Chimes) by Sam Falls, 2014, powder coated aluminum, steel base, steel hardware and marine grade rope

I LOVE to watch kinetic sculptures – this is One Fixed Four Jointed Lines Biased Stainless Steel by George Rickey, 1988.

Some for the Contemporary Art collection: Top Row: The Steel Mill by Thomas Hart Benton, 1930, oil on canvas mounted on board; Azure Icicle Chandelier by Dale Chihuly, 2016, blown glass and steel; Portrait of Alfred Stieglitz by Florine Stettheimer, 1928, oil on canvas Second Row: Depression Bread Line by George Segal, 1991, plaster, wood, metal, acrylic paint [a bronze cast of this original sculpture is included in the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D. C.]; Two Male Hummingbirds Fighthing by Gerald Nailor, 1951, gouache on paper; Hunters by Ma Pe Wi, 1935, gouache on paper Third Row: Small Purple Hills by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1934, oil on panel; Flying Backbone by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1944, oil on canvas; Untitled by Andy Warhol, 1949, tempera, graphite and ink on board Last Row: Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman by Kehinde Wiley, 2018, oil on linen [features Shontay Haynes of St. Louis, Mo. – Wiley is the artist that did the official portrait of President O’Bama for the Portrait Gallery in Washington D. C.]; Untitled (S.028 Hanging Four-Lobed Continuous Form within a Form) by Ruth Asawa, 1958, iron wire; Man on a Bench by Duane Hanson, 1977, polyvinyl, oil, mixed media and accessories

A few more odds and ends below – Top Row: Johnny by Susie J. Lee, 2013, High-definition video portrait [subject was to sit silently for her video camera for up to 30 minutes at a time]; Radiator Building – Night, New York by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1927, oil on canvas; The Bubble by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, 1928, bronze and glass Second Row: Museum room hung salon style the rest of the museum was hung museum style; The Bathers by Marisol, 1961-62, painted wood panel, graphite, plaster cast and sculpted wood; Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome on the North Lawn Trail Third Row: Snow on Alden Brook by Neil G. Welliver, 1983, oil on canvas – view from 10′ away and 2′ away.