by Max Brantley
Case in point. She reports today on acquisition of a Rothko work by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Walton art temple in Bentonville. Nice. But what's interesting is her exposure of how the East Coast bigshots reported the news and the shifting standards by which they view the effort to build a major arts institution out here in the sticks.
The Wall Street Journal took the same tack in its story, "A Rothko Fills a Museum's Breach."
Here's one way of looking at those headlines: that the art world, which once ridiculed the notion that a first-rate museum could be located in Arkansas, then produced accolades about the collection, now demands Crystal Bridges be even better. I'm not sure I remember the museum being criticized for whatever it lacks in color field and New York School works, though the baby steps into the post-war work in the collection was noted.
At any rate, I don't think Alice Walton bought a Rothko in response to art reviews. I think she was waiting, as was director Don Bacigalupi, until she decided upon which Rothko to buy from what was available. When she buys a large Frankenthaler, it won't be because I wrote here that the museum's 20th century collection is frail without it.
Well observed. I think the Crystal Bridges buzz — along with the buying power that relocates master works to darkest Arkansas — really bugs some East Coast elites. Boo hoo. It's a boon to Arkansas. In October, it happens that I'll be part of a group of nine people, most flying from eastern states, who'll rent cars and motel rooms and buy food and a drink or two to visit Crystal Bridges and maybe venture off into quainter territory, like Eureka Springs, over their long weekend. I have a feeling they're not the first.