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Wal-Mart Heirs Sponsoring “Crystal Bridges” Art Museum in Arkansas

Image Courtesy Walton Foundation/ © Moshe Safdie & Associates

Wal-Mart is known for many things, but high culture is not chief among them. It may come as a surprise, then, that the heirs of the Walton family, led by Sam Walton’s daughter Alice, are building a sophisticated museum complex in their headquarters of Bentonville, Arkansas.

Called Crystal Bridges, after a pair of glazed galleries that will traverse a man-made lake, the museum will be devoted to American art. It is being designed by Moshe Safdie & Associates of Boston with landscape design by Peter Walker & Partners of Berkeley, California. Linked by a series of trails in a 100-acre wooded park, the 100,000 square-foot museum will be accessible via a fifteen-minute walk from downtown Bentonville. It will consist of a series of buildings with distinctive ribbed and glazed roofs offering views of treetops and sky. “I want to create an experience of viewing art in nature,” says Safdie. “Breaking up the spaces creates a network of indoor and outdoor areas, so the visitor never loses sight of the landscape.”

Alice Walton made news recently by acquiring a Charles Wilson Peale portrait of George Washington and a Hudson River School landscape by Arthur Durand known as “Kindred Spirits” from the New York Public Library. These will be signature pieces of the Museum’s collection.

Alan G. Brake