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National Academy Sales Update: Crystal Bridges Declines to Say Whether It Bought the Church and Gifford

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Crystal Bridges construction site as of October 2008

This just in from Sandy Edwards, associate director of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR. Edwards was responding by e-mail to my repeated queries about whether Alice Walton‘s planned museum was the place where the works sold by the National Academy would eventually be publicly displayed (as per Sotheby’s agreement with the private foundation that purchased the Church and Gifford).

Edwards wrote:

We discuss only works of art from our permanent collection which have been made public. I appreciate your understanding.

My best understanding is that if Crystal Bridges and Walton hadn’t purchased the paintings, they would likely say so. Then again, no news may be no news: They may have an inviolable policy of not responding to people who want to know what they have.

Why Crystal Bridges persists in this policy of selective disclosure about what it is collecting for the public’s benefit is another interesting question. Perhaps it wants to surprise us at the opening, scheduled for 2010. The Church and Gifford would be an unpleasant surprise—an instance of a museum that wants to be welcomed into the community of its peers that has participated in another institution’s willingness to violate the ethical guidelines of its peers.

As I previously reported (in an update appended to the post linked at the top of this post), Walton’s sometime collection advisor, American art historian John Wilmerding, informed me that he had not heard that the Academy’s paintings had been purchased by Walton or Crystal Bridges. He was careful to say “to my knowledge,” signifying, perhaps, that he could be out of the loop.

Time (and the as yet unidentified venue for the paintings’ public exhibition) will eventually tell.

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