America prepares for the biggest privately funded museum since the Getty
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opens its doors to the public on 11 November. The much anticipated collection is a vast survey of American art from colonial times to the present, with a relevant focus on the here and now. The 1.3 billion dollar museum was funded by the the Walton Family Foundation, with a collection donated by Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart’s founder. The works on view cover artists from John Singer Sargent to John Baldessari offering the added bonus of special exhibitions and a unique educational program. It promises to explore the unfolding story of America by actively collecting, exhibiting, interpreting, and preserving outstanding works that illuminate our heritage and artistic possibilities. The Museum takes its name from nearby Crystal Spring and the bridge construction incorporated in the building design by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A series of pavilions nestled around two creek-fed ponds will house galleries, meeting and classroom spaces, and a large, glass-enclosed gathering hall. Crystal Bridges is building its permanent collection through the efforts of its professional staff as well as important gifts from private collectors such as Alice Walton and others. The collection features American masterworks dating from the Colonial era to contemporary times and will be on view to the public year-round. The Museum also will display a changing array of special exhibitions featuring art from museums and collections throughout the region, the nation, and abroad.
The museum is situated in an unique combination of inspiring natural beauty and metro-worthy amenities makes Northwest Arkansas an unforgettable place to visit. The region which includes Bentonville, Rogers, Springdale, Fayetteville, Eureka Springs, Bella Vista, and Siloam Springs – has experienced explosive growth in recent years and now boasts a population of nearly a half-million.
In the Modern period (roughly 1900 to 1960) American art continued in the pluralistic mode of the previous century, with some artists experimenting with the fractured forms of Cubism and abstraction. Other artists explored the lives of Americans in cities and country in a realist style, continuing what they believed was a national artistic tradition that stretched back to the colonial era. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, a number of artists used their work to criticize social and economic conditions that they believed led to poverty and discrimination.
After World War II, a group of American artists synthesized European-derived Cubism and Surrealism with an interest in psychology and existential philosophy to produce a style known as Abstract Expressionism, which placed America on the leading edge of modern art. From the 1950s and into the 1960s artists responded to the challenges of Abstract Expressionism in various ways, some by using large areas of unmodulated color to create transcendental experience, others by making people and life the focus of their work.
Contemporary American art continues the open-ended experimental complexity of late 20th century art, an era in which stylistic pluralism became normative. Works that are representative, abstract, and conceptual, created in traditional media of painting, drawing, sculpture, but also collage, photography, mixed media, and new digital technologies coexist in a climate that simultaneously looks back to tradition and the history of art, forward to the new, while often championing social causes. As a distinct movement, contemporary art has established its own hierarchical concerns and networks, and continues to thrive within the context of contemporary global culture.
Photo: Dolly Parton by Andy Warhol 1985