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NPR’s Transcript of Yesterday’s Crystal Bridges Commentary (plus museum’s strange video)


NPR’s “Weekend Edition” has now posted the transcript of Joel Rose‘s piece (in which I participated) on Alice Walton‘s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art—“Wal-Mart Heiress’ Show Puts A High Price On Art.”

The comments that particularly struck me, when taken together, were these:

John Wilmerding (art historian and Alice Walton‘s art advisor): Nobody, including myself, who’s an Americanist thought
that you could begin to acquire great American masterpieces in today’s
market. We had all thought they were already in public collections or in
private hands.

Eric Widing (Christie’s head of American art): Alice’s presence in the marketplace has clearly brought out works of art that might not otherwise have been offered for sale.

That, in a nutshell is the “destabilizing effect” of Walton’s fortune, which I referred to when I stated:

You can’t exactly blame Alice for taking advantage of opportunities. On
the other hand, her resources are so great that they provide a
tremendous temptation for museums and other cultural institutions to
monetize works that would better remain in their own communities…

CultureGrrl Donor 181 from Los Angeles has stepped up to my “Bender in Bentonville” challenge, which means that I need only $140 more to defray my $200 in expenses for hotel and cabs.

But the offer that really touched me came from a Fayetteville, AR, art-history teacher, who offered to put me up at his home and transport me to and from the museum (about 40 minutes away, he said). “We could use your corrective, no matter whether it ends being up admiring or withering,” he wrote.

I couldn’t have asked for a more personally gratifying note—both because of its generosity and because the writer understood that I’m going to Crystal Bridges this week with an open mind, when it comes to forming an opinion (beyond my first impressions from my May visit) about the collection and the facility that houses it. (By the way, I declined the CultureGrrl reader’s generous offer, with warm thanks.)

Wait a minute! I just visited the Crystal Bridges homepage and could not believe what I saw. It’s a video intended to welcome you to the museum.

You’ll need to view it yourself, to see if you will find it as astonishingly witless as I did. But I will tell you this (in case you’re not as acquainted with Bentonville as I am): The three trucks that you’ll see serve as advertisements for the area’s three big corporations: J.B. Hunt (trucking), which on Thursday announced it was donating $1 million to Crystal Bridges; Tyson (food); and…well, you already know the third one.

Here’s Alice herself, in the video’s final moments:


If the museum’s homepage changes, you can also view the video here. (The person you’ll see in the elevator is Crystal Bridges’ director, Don Bacigalupi.)

an ArtsJournal blog