The best new museum of American art to open in 25 years just opened in November in Bentonville Arkansas. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the lifelong project of Walmart heiress Alice Walton, houses a sensational collection of American painting from colonial days to the present in a building by famed architect Moshe Safdie. Some highlights of the 1000-strong collection include Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter; the six colonial New York portraits of the Franks-Levy families; Thomas Eakins’ Dr. Benjamin Rand; Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits [a memorial to painter Thomas Cole, bought from the New York Public Library]; large groups of the Native-American paintings of George Catlin and the orchid/hummingbird paintings of Martin Johnson Heade; and far-above-average examples by dozens of important American painters, including Copley, Stuart, Cole, Church, Sargent, Chase, O’Keeffe, and Wyeth.
Bentonville is a seven to eight hour drive from Ruston, but those who have time to spend 2 nights on the road are recommended to visit the museum, by way of a stop at the Clinton Presidential library in Little Rock. The Walmart Welcome Center, on the main square in Bentonville, is also worth a visit.
Visitors to Crystal Bridges are advised to visit the museum’s website (http://crystalbridges.org/) and reserve tickets to guarantee their admission.
– Saul Zalesch