Since 2011, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, has been a cornerstone of cultural enrichment in the region. Its impressive collection, featuring luminaries like Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol, captivates art enthusiasts and newcomers alike. The museum's architecture, a harmonious blend of modern design and natural beauty, complements the artistic wonders within. Funded by Walmart's legacy and Alice Walton's generosity, Crystal Bridges is more than a museum—it's a celebration of American art and creativity.
This haven of art invites visitors to explore and engage with the transformative power of creativity. Whether you're revisiting your favorite pieces or discovering them for the first time, Crystal Bridges promises a unique experience with each visit. It's not just a place to view art; it's a destination where imagination and inspiration flourish, welcoming everyone to be part of the ever-evolving story of American art.
The celebrated modern artist Georgia O'Keeffe created this iconic oil painting of magnified flowers in 1932. It had the honor of adorning the White House's private dining room while George W. Bush was president. The vibrantly colored painting broke records in 2014 when it attracted the highest price ever paid for a work by a female artist. The buyers were none other than Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the museum paid $44.4 million at a Sotheby's auction. O'Keeffe insisted that the painting had no sexual symbolism despite Freudian interpretations.
Architectural innovator Buckminster Fuller designed and patented a 50-foot-tall geodesic dome in the 1960s as a possible cost-effective portable housing solution. The structure was handbuilt beginning in 1977 and took inspiration from the shape of a fly's eye. It has 61 openings meant for solar panels and water collection. Fuller had an off-the-grid lifestyle in mind, and he called his creation an "autonomous dwelling machine." It spent decades in storage before Crystal Bridges Museum of Art acquired the futuristic fiberglass sphere for its North Lawn in 2017.
The merchant Jonathan Sturges commissioned this quintessential Hudson River School artwork. Created in 1849, it features Thomas Cole, the movement's founder, in conversation with the nature poet Cullen Bryant. The pair stand overlooking a gorge in the Catskill Mountains, an imaginary place informed by memory. Bryant was gifted this oil on canvas portrait as an homage to the eulogy he delivered at Cole's memorial. It acknowledges their friendship, love of the landscape, and the complementary nature of their creative mediums, poetry, and fine art.
You've probably seen an edition of this sculpture spelling the word "love" somewhere in the world—there are over 50 of them, and one resides in the Art Trail at Crystal Bridges. The design has a serif font, and the O is at a slant, with the first two letters sitting atop the second two. Robert Indiana frequently used the word in his works, but this pop art iteration is what he became known for. The lettering was not trademarked, so the financial rewards were meager, unfortunately. Because Indiana was gay, the image is often used to celebrate Pride Month.
This wall-size 2015 sculpture is rather special as it depicts the upper portion of the nearby White River. Beaver Lake is one of the four lakes shown. Artist Maya Lin was en route to Crystal Bridges for a lecture when she saw the river from a plane and became fascinated by its shape. The piece is made from recycled silver as a nod to the fish that occupy the body of water. It measures 131 inches by 20 feet by three-eighths of an inch and emphasizes the importance of our natural heritage.
Dale Chihuly's colored glassblown art is extraordinary. Just like "Silver Upper White River," "Azure Icicle" was made for the museum in 2016, and the dramatic and gorgeous double chandelier hangs at its entrance. After a temporary exhibit of Chihuly's work, Crystal Bridges asked its members to vote on an outdoor piece to keep permanently, so look out for their selection, the beloved "Fori Boat."
In 1929, Missourian Thomas Hart Benton was at the forefront of the American Regionalist school. He loved to draw and paint Northwest Arkansas, and his 1962 watercolor depiction of the Buffalo River was a love letter to a place he visited at various junctures of his life. You can learn more about the artist who briefly taught Jackson Pollock at Crystal Bridges.
Crystal Bridges five miles of peaceful trails are worth a visit all on their own and attract scores of hikers and mountain bikers. Those taking a stroll or cycling will encounter wildlife and engage with outdoor art. Sculptures, native plants, and the museum's eponymous spring feature along the way. The trails are dog-friendly, well-maintained, and have sufficient restrooms.
The museum has a fantastic program of events for all ages and experience levels. In summer, weeklong day camps give kids and teens between 4 and 18 a creative education in the arts, STEM, and nature. Adults can look forward to edifying lectures, concerts in the forest, exhibits, and hands-on workshops.
The Tower Bar at The Momentary guarantees the best sunset views in Bentonville from its sixth floor and has a retro theme to boot. Quench your thirst in a space with a fantastic ambiance and an upscale feel. Appetizers are available for the peckish, but the truly hungry should head for Eleven.
Glass walls, lake views, breathtaking architecture, and local, sustainable food make for a memorable dining experience at this coffee bar and restaurant. The Sunday brunch buffet is scrumptious and includes the likes of shrimp and grits, and croissants. Try the cheesy cornbread and beans and the peach lavender smoothie off the a la carte menu.
In 1954, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a home for Abraham Wilson and his wife, Gloria Bachman. It's a fine example of the architect's Usonian or American residential design characterized by simplicity, elongated layouts, and natural elements. Threatened by flooding, the midcentury house relocated from New Jersey in 2015 and is an impressive addition to the Crystal Bridges property, complementing Moshe Safdie's brilliant museum design and wooden finishes.
Everything at Crystal Bridges is done with intention, and the museum store is no exception. Designed by local firm Marlon Blackwell Architects, the space fits smoothly in with the rest of the museum, while accessories spotlight local craftspeople. The ribbed undulating ceiling provides shade and resembles a mushroom's gills. Purchase fine art prints of the works you've seen and loved, unique jewelry pieces, and thoughtfully curated home decor items.
This showcase of iconic photographs by Annie Leibovitz is sure to please longtime fans of the portraitist and folks with good taste. Known for her work with Vogue, Vanity Fair, and other major magazines, Leibovitz is the preferred editorial photographer of many celebrities. The temporary exhibit runs until the end of January 2024 and features newly commissioned work. With some nudity in the mix, discretion is advised.
Daily drop-in tours are free and include an explanation of the Crystal Bridge's architecture and standout pieces in a collection. For example, a "3 in 30" tour explores three works in half an hour. Accommodations for bilingual visitors and those who use American Sign Language are available when you notify the museum before the tour commences. You can also do an audio tour at your own pace thanks to the museum's indoor and outdoor apps, complete with interactive maps.