The Most Fabulous Art Museum Is In…Arkansas?

Marriage equality isn’t the only reason Arkansas is shaking up the South.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in Bentonville, Ark., was created by Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton and heiress to the family’s multi-billion-dollar fortune. If we had the kind of money that is in her bank account, we would spend each and every day throwing piles of $100 bills into the air and giggling with glee.

However, Alice Walton is a better person than us, because she decided her hometown in Northwest Arkansas needed some culture, and she was going to bring it there herself. After she spent several years sharpening her skills as an art collector, she amassed what is arguably one of the most interesting and delightful collections of Colonial American to contemorary art found anywhere from sea to shining sea. And it’s open to the public for free, every day.

Walton is well-known for going against the grain in the ultra-conservative Christian social circles of her Bible Belt home. Although she donated large sums of money to Mitt Romney in 2012, she is already showing her Arkansas pride by writing checks to Hilary Clinton in 2016. She also hired an openly gay man, who has a stay-at-home partner and a child, to run Crystal Bridges. Insert “gasp” here.

The museum campus opened in 2011 and was designed by starchitect Moshe Safdie. Like the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Getty in L.A., the Crystal Bridges galleries and grounds are a world-class attraction in their own right, where the masses gather and enjoy simply strolling amongst the gorgeousness around them. But people really do come to this museum to see the art.

We’re not saying Ms. Walton isn’t a capable art collector on her own, but it seems that she is getting some help from her gay friends. Besides the big names like Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keefe, and Francis Bacon (who is now on record as the artist who created the most expensive painting on Earth), this art collection has far too much camp factor and sexually-charged male flesh to be a coincidence. Plus, now that marriage equality is legal in Arkansas, the museum management is actively welcoming LGBT couples to host their weddings in the museum’s event spaces.  The soccer moms and Walmart managers in Bentonville are living amongst a fortress of scandal!

Although jokes aside, it really is a wonderful place. Take a look at some of our favorite pieces of art there and you’ll see what we mean.

cadmusJon Anderson in White Tights, Paul Cadmus


cadmus-2Fences, Paul Cadmus


warholDolly Parton, Andy Warhol


maurerJeanne, Alfred Henry Maurer


hartleyMadawaska—Acadian Light-Heavy, Marsden Hartley


wyethOrca Bates, Jamie Wyeth


thiebaudSupine Woman, Wayne Thiebaud


rockwell-rosieRosie the Riveter, Norman Rockwell


freeFree, Emma Marie Cadwalader-Guild


haringTwo-Headed Figure, Keith Haring


Get Queerty Daily

Subscribe to Queerty for a daily dose of #alicewalton #arkansas #art stories and more


  • Mezaien

    So contemporary, lovely. The use of medium, colours, line and diractions, Good for all of you HOMOS, who are artist! thank you.

  • Mezaien

    Ooops, directions;

  • tim b

    I spent a week down in Bentonville a few months ago and yeah, the museum is gorgeous. The building is really lovely, the collection is first-rate and its installation is smart and beautiful. There’s a good measure of southern chip-on-the-shoulder attitude where culture is concerned, but there’s a lot of local pride, too.

    And with good reason: Crystal Bridges has smart people running it and they’re determined to build a first-rate institution… god knows, they’ve got the money to do it. Their exhibiting partners while I was there included the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, the Met in New York, and the Louvre.

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike Walmart as a company, and to dislike the people who run it. But the people who built the East Coast’s big museum collections were not exactly saints, either (try Googling Henry Clay Frick some time).

  • ceedub

    Just moved to NYC from Bentonville and lived 2 miles from Crystal Bridges….. its in a class all its own……. Ms. Walton needed a legacy…. its a great gift to not only Arkansas but rest of world. Executive director is gay and when they moved to town you would have thought they were the first gay couple there….. Walmart still has strides to make with the gay glass ceiling… no openly LGBT is above sr. director at Walmort and in terms of modern and contemporary pieces in the museum, if you let your eye see it, homo influence is there (you forgot the Koons in the restaurant )
    I suggest any art lover to schedule a trip…..two restaurants on the Benotnville square had their chefs here in NYC at the Beard house to present some of the unique southern midwest culinary creations that are popping there

  • DickieJohnson

    Unbelievable, and a must-see destination for art lovers. The few examples shown would be worth the trip. I’m lovin’ that Warhol “Dolly Parton”!!! Thanks, Ms Walton!

  • Merv

    It strikes me as extremely dangerous to have a museum such as this behind enemy lines, so to speak. When the confederacy inevitably reestablishes itself as a fascist Christian theocracy, the works here will be the first to be destroyed. I hope they have contingency plans to remove them to safer locations when the threat is imminent. If so, about now would be the time, with the Tea Party in firm control throughout the South.

Comments are closed.