by Max Brantley
The New York Times today profiles Alice Walton and her Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, set to open in November in Bentonville. The lead:
The era of the world-class museum built by a single philanthropist in the tradition of Isabella Stewart Gardner, John Pierpont Morgan Jr. and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney may seem to have passed, but Alice L. Walton is bringing it back.
Yet her mission is unlike those of her predecessors, or of more recent art patrons like Ronald S. Lauder and his Neue Galerie. They set out to put great works on display in cultural capitals like New York and Boston. Instead, Ms. Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art — the first major institution dedicated to American artists in 50 years, to be housed in a building more than twice the size of the current Whitney Museum of American Art — seeks to bring high art to middle America here in this town of 35,000 that is best known as the home of Wal-Mart.
Walton gave the Times a rare interview at her Texas ranch family house in Bentonville. She describes bringing her family around to use of family land for the museum and mentions a certain disconnect from East Coast establishment types about a major arts institution in Arkansas. She said she'd never doubted that American art would be her focus. “This is the heartland of the country. It’s what should be here,” she told the Times.