The Wall Street Journal visited “middle America,” or if you prefer, Bentonville, Arkansas, for the latest soapbox review of Alice Walton’s big box museum, Crystal Bridges. It’s probably the fairest assessment yet. “Why should museums be stuck in cities?” the article asks. That’s a good question.
Apparently, talk in “the local bar” in Bentonville (the article makes it sound like there’s only one, which we guess means collectors will have to get boozed up within the museum walls) is all about the Walmart heiress’s $1.2 billion palace of American art resting on 120 acres of land. Crystal Bridges has been controversial, mostly for its location: to the coasts, which want everything for themselves, maybe it comes off a bit like Ms. Walton’s fortress of solitude. The Journal writes:
“Sophisticates gripe, of course. They say such a top-drawer collection should be more accessible. What they mean is, it should be more accessible to them.”
As for the art, the analogy made is “like going to your reunion and liking everyone.”
The issue people take with the museum is that it’s in the middle of nowhere and more of a vanity project of its creator. But why shouldn’t the 35,000 inhabitants of Bentonville get to see some Baldessaris and Nick Caves? And why shouldn’t other towns outside of the typical cultural destinations? Maybe Crystal Bridges is on to something. The museum opens this Friday.