It seemed like a good idea. Ruth has relatives in West Plains, Missouri, who were interested in seeing Crystal Bridges, Alice Walton’s American Art Museum in Bentonville. Ruth and I hadn’t been there since 2012. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House was scheduled to open in spring, 2015. I added some months to this, and we organized a cousins’ trip for July, 2015.
I should have known better. Bachman-Turner was built in 1954 close enough to New Jersey’s Millstone River to invite flooding. The owners who restored it, the Tarantinos, decided to sell it to an institution willing to relocate it. Enter Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart’s founder Sam Walton and the money and spirit behind Crystal Bridges. Alice bought this Usonian home and began the process of moving it to a woodsy hillside near the Crystal Spring Trail on Crystal Bridges’ 120 acre property. It cannot be seen from the museum but is very close. It’s now scheduled to open for limited tours in autumn, 2015. We decided to go anyway.
Crystal Bridges’ American art collection spans 5 centuries, from Colonial portraits to Warhol. In 8 pavilions that surround 2 spring-fed ponds and remind me of a ready-for-action Samurai warrior architecturally, Alice’s art collection is arranged chronologically and interrupted by small temporary exhibitions. What surprised me the most was that visiting Crystal Bridges after a 3 year absence was like seeing it for the first time. Much of its permanent collection, I was told, is still in storage and new acquisitions are being added regularly. I would estimate that about half of what I saw was not up when Ruth and I first visited. I also noticed an attempt to introduce a bit of non-American art to the mix, like the Chardin in the temporary show “American Encounters” that closes September 14. Crystal Bridges is still free and its Eleven restaurant remains excellent. I was not surprised to learn that it will welcome its millionth visitor in August, 2015. Since it opened on 11-11-11, Crystal Bridges has attracted, on average, about 21,700 visitors each month.
They come to see American icons like George Washington and Rosie the Riveter. I used to be among the amateur critics who claimed that Norman Rockwell was just a popular illustrator. This time I sat and stared at Rosie for a long time and decided that this is simply not true. Rockwell was an American artist of note. I hadn’t noticed before that Rosie’s frame has corner stars and that her right foot is on Hitler’s book Mein Kampf.
“Picturing the Americas: Landscape painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic” opens on November 7, 2015, and runs through January 18, 2016. Landscape imagery that inspired our national identity sounds like an interesting idea for a show, and this exhibit promises about 100 paintings, photographs, prints, etc. from well-known artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and not-so-famous ones like Francisco Oller. This show combined with a Frank Lloyd Wright house and a Collection Highlights Tour would be a trip worth taking. But this time, I’ll check on Bachamn-Turner before I start planning.