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Alice Malice: My Crystal Bridges Moment on CBS “Sunday Morning”

Alice Walton’s home in Bentonville, AR, as seen on CBS “Sunday Morning”

I’m poised to fly to Bentonville next week, art-lings.

But before I pack my camera and notepad, I want to make one thing clear: Whatever I have already said and will yet say about the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, my appraisal has nothing to do with Wal-Mart’s corporate practices (not my topic), big-city snobbery towards art in Arkansas (spreading the cultural wealth is praiseworthy) or Alice Walton‘s personal life (not relevant to my assessment of the ambitious institution that she has founded).

In an Alice-friendly, eight and a half-minute segment, “Alice’s Wonderland,” aired yesterday on CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” critics of Crystal Bridges are cast hurtful villains, whose views about Walton and her museum may be biased by a distaste for the source of her wealth and for the state where she grew up.

As it turns out, I’m one of the bad guys.

In the middle of Martha Teichner‘s report, below, you’ll see my byline flash by, attached to my Wall Street Journal article of Oct. 10, 2007, in which I used some strong language to describe Alice’s collecting practices at that time (think, “Kindred Spirits,” “The Gross Clinic,” Fisk University’s Stieglitz Collection). My offending words are read aloud by Teichner and highlighted in yellow.

Is this what’s meant by “yellow journalism”?

You’ll see my 10 seconds of infamy at about 4:28 into the video clip. You’ll also hear Teichner say that the building’s cost is “an estimated [by whom?] $150 million dollars. No one will say, exactly.”

Museum officials have refused to divulge the cost of the project—a secrecy unprecedented in my long career of covering museum construction. One tidbit of information: Don Bacigalupi, the museum’s director, tells Teichner that the collection totals more than 1,000 works.

Here are Alice and Martha (and me):

an ArtsJournal blog