Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fine Art: Wal-Mart: Arkansas!

Most Americans probably shop at Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club in order to take advantage of the low prices realized through the company’s massive buying power.  Others mock the company through “Walmartian” internet photos… Still others look at Wal-Mart as a negative influence on small town America and retailing in general… What no one can dispute is that Sam Walton, the founder of the company, represents the quintessential American success story!

OK… Whether you’re a Wal-Mart fan or not, this blog is about a charitable spin-off from the Wal-Mart fortune.  Alice Walton is one of Sam and Helen Walton’s 4 children.  In March of this year, her personal fortune was estimated to be $23.3 Billion…or, to put into perspective, $23,300,000,000! What to do with all of that money…while not spending it all on one project…and benefiting her childhood home in Northwest Arkansas…
If you think that Fine Art, Wal-Mart and Arkansas don't belong together, prepare to change your mind...

An art museum…plunked down in Bentonville Arkansas!?  Yes indeed, this was and is Alice’s vision!  She decided to create a world class art museum and put it right in her childhood hometown in a relatively unknown part of the USA…

Crystal Bridges opened in November 2011.  It’s already being touted as one of the premier art museums and cultural attractions in the USA.  The museum includes works loaned and donated by Walton herself, (Her personal collection alone is valued at over $400 Million), as well as by the Walton Family Foundation.

In 2011 Roxy Paine created this 47’ tall stainless steel tree sculpture which she named “Yield”.  It awaits Crystal Bridges visitors as they approach the entrance to this FREE museum.  Yes, I did say FREE!  Thanks to ‘a certain corporate sponsor’, admission to the museum is free.  Parking is free too!  There is a restaurant and a gift shop…and there are modest fees for special exhibits on loan to Crystal Bridges and other special events…but the vast majority of this cultural attraction is free.

I’m sure that Alice used her and Wal-Mart’s influence to garner other sponsors.  GE, Coca Cola and Goldman Sachs are major sponsors as are Tyson, J. P. Morgan, U.S. Trust, Cisco, Kraft Foods, Sotheby's and many, many other corporations and individuals.

The museum itself actually appears as a work of art.  Creative landscape architecture is enhanced by outdoor sculpture trails and through the powerful structural visuals provided by the museum structure itself.

I should note that Alice Walton and the Walton Family Foundation intended Crystal Bridges as a premier venue for a national art institution that is dedicated to American Art and Artists, as well as a place of learning and community.
From this point on, I’ll let the art works on display at Crystal Bridges do most of the ‘talking’.  I’ve chosen a number of important or interesting items just to give the reader the idea of the scope and significance of this collection.

This is Charles Wilson Peale’s “George Washington”, painted ca. 1780 – 1782.

These two portraits are both the work of Charles Bird King.  The one on the left is of “Wai-kee-chai, Sanky Chief, Crushing Eagle”.  The portrait on the right is of “Ottoe Half Chief, Husband of Eagle of Delight”.   Ottoe’s wife certainly had an interesting name…

This work, entitled “Winter Scene in Brooklyn”, was painted by Francis Guy ca. 1820.  We enjoyed the painting for its detail and because it shows what part of New York City looked like about 200 years ago.

We had to take a photo of this painting, “A View of St. Louis”, just because Laurie is from St. Louis and this is where we met and got married over 33 years ago!  The artist, who provided this very early view of St. Louis from the east side of the Mississippi, was Leon Pomarede.  The painting was completed ca. 1832 – 1835.

This painting by Mary Cassatt is entitled “Summertime”.  It was completed ca. 1894.  Mary Cassatt is an American artist who lived most of her life in France.

This is one of our favorite paintings from Crystal Bridges… It’s a portrait of author Robert Lewis Stevenson and his wife by artist John Singer Sargent.

This is another view of Crystal Bridges itself as a work of art… The view is of one segment of the museum that contains two exhibit areas.  The facility surrounds this man made pond…  The building was designed by world renowned architect Moshe Safdie.

In 2004, Sotheby’s held a major art auction featuring many works by well known American artists.  Someone kept bidding on various lots via the phone…and that person, Alice Walton, ended the day by spending $20 million on her expanding collection.  She had been collecting art for years but this massive purchase stunned the art world.  Incidentally, she was participating in a horse show while bidding for the artwork.
Then in 2005, she announced her plans for Crystal Bridges.  She followed that up by buying a landmark landscape of the Hudson River School by Asher B. Durand, entitled “Kindred Spirits” for about $35 million.  She also made some purchases via 3rd parties to hold down her costs.  All of this action angered some, rattled nerves, aroused skepticism and stimulated the art market.  The Crystal Bridges endowment is now 4 times larger than the Whitney Museum’s. 

Famous Missouri born artist, Thomas Hart Benton, created this masterpiece entitled “Ploughing It Under” back in 1934.

This portrait is Andy Warhol’s vision of Dolly Parton.  FYI...the museum covers American related art from the Colonial period through the 19th Century, the Modern Period and into Contemporary works.

This beautiful painting by Andrew Wyeth is strangely entitled “Rush Hour”.  As a retiree for 3 years now, I do understand and appreciate what he seems to be saying!

For your information… The Northwest Arkansas Area has a population approaching 500,000 people…and, in addition to retail giant Wal-Mart, its home to Tyson Foods, (the world’s leading producer of poultry and beef), and J. B. Hunt Transportation Services, the nation’s largest publicly owned truckload carrier.  The unemployment rate in this area averages about 2% below the national average.

Laurie and I both liked the clean lines and a sort of purity shown in this Edward Hopper watercolor entitled “Roofs of the Cobb Barn” from 1931.

I could go on and on with photos from this soon to be famous Walton legacy in Northwest Arkansas… Alice Walton wanted to bring art and culture, as well as a major tourist/art destination to this fast growing section of Arkansas and she certainly has accomplished that mission.  If you find yourself anywhere in Arkansas, eastern Kansas or Oklahoma or southern Missouri, take the time to visit Crystal Bridges.  You won’t regret the experience!

Just one more object d’art for your viewing pleasure…or at least as a curiosity.  This is a photo of James Dine’s sculpture “Walking to Boras”.  I don’t quite get it…looks like Pinocchio to me!  Did he walk to Boras?  Indeed, it is Pinocchio and Mr. Dine has him walking to Boras Sweden… Why I don’t know…

The latest news is that after 7 years of legal action, for $30 million, Crystal Bridges has acquired a 50% stake in Fisk University’s art collection.  The court battle involved a collection by famed artist Georgia O’Keefe’s husband, Alfred Stieglitz.  The collection included 4 of O’Keefe’s paintings as well as works by Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne and others.   The collection will rotate between Crystal Bridges and the University over 2 years.  Many in the art world aren’t pleased with this acquisition…
Here are a few sources for additional information.  The website for Crystal Bridges is  To view a very long list of art work at Crystal Bridges, an unaffiliated site has furnished a partial inventory.  It’s found at  To learn more about Alice Walton, she has her own official website at  One of our friends told us that there is also a great Native American Museum in Bentonville, but we just didn’t have time to visit it during our trip.  Information on the Museum of Native American Artifacts can be found at  Finally, for all of the attractions and general information about this area, just go to
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by and visiting this new American Art Museum with us!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

1 comment:

  1. how informative!! i did not know any of this! thanks! we are big museum fans here...