I just saw the construction site for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which is slated to open, somewhat ominously, on 11-11-11. The concrete foundations, framing, and much of the roofing are up. The museum, by Cambridge, Massachusetts architect Moshe Safdie, consists of eight unique, pod-like structures strung around a huge pool of water. It’s stunning that a new museum like this, similar in scale to the Getty Center, is taking shape in the middle of this small Arkansas town, within an undisturbed Ozarks forest. Less stunning is the strange, artless geometry of the structures.
Although it’s the name of a nearby spring, “Crystal Bridges” seems New Agey and vaguely evangelical, not artsy at all. Perhaps we can be grateful that Alice Walton, the Wal-Mart heiress who founded the museum and just blessed it with a $800,000,000 endowment, didn’t want to call it the Alice Walton Museum of American Art. The artwork is strong for a new collection. There are some great twentieth-century canvases and an original James Turrell Skyscape, which is housed in its own separate structure. A new art museum, whatever its aspect, is always a good thing.