Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art – 7 Things to Expect When You Visit

One of America’s most amazing art museums is in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Yes, Arkansas!  Here are seven things you can expect when you visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art…

Art lovers expect to find phenomenal art museums in major metropolitan areas like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, and DC.

But if you love art, architecture, or the great outdoors, then you won’t want to miss the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.  

Yes, Arkansas.

Via the Walton Family Foundation — yes, that Walton family — Alice Walton founded the art museum that opened in 2011.  Alice, who is Walmart founder Sam Walton’s only daughter and currently ranked 17th on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires, is said to have contributed $317 million of her own money into Crystal Bridges.

I paid full price for any expenses associated with these experiences at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and always share my honest opinions.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art - What to expect when you visit by EverydayWanderer.com

 

Here are seven things you can expect when you visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art:

1. No admission fee

Sponsored by Walmart, there is no cost to visit Crystal Bridge’s permanent collection, but there may be a fee for special exhibits, programs, and other events. Our visit to Crystal Bridges was prompted by the Chihuly in the Forest special exhibit, and there was a cost associated with that experience.

You might also enjoy Visiting a Chihuly Exhibit – 5 Things to Know Before You Go

Entrance to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Fun Fact:  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened on November 11, 2011 or 11/11/11.

2. Might cause arachnophobia

Standing in the courtyard that connects the main entrance and the gift shop is Maman, a 30-foot tall spider by Louise Bourgeois.

Maman, the 30-foot spider by Louise Bourgeois at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Fun Fact:  While travelers will find Maman in other locations around the world, from Canada to Qatar, the Maman sculpture at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville is the only permanently installed version in the entire United States.

Pro Tip:  See how Maman was installed at Crystal Bridges

3. An organized walk through American art history

Crystal Bridges’ galleries are displayed by time period, from the Colonial Era to modern times.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Pro Tip:  Download the State of the Art mobile app to help guide your way through the works of art.


4. Amazing American artists

All of the artists featured in the permanent collection are US citizens, although some of the art displayed may be of or inspired by experiences abroad.

Some of our favorite artists with works on display included:

Georgia O’Keeffe

Crystal Bridges has a rare sculpture by Georgia O’Keeffe on display, Abstraction, a white-lacquered bronze piece.

It also features the world’s most expensive painting by a woman, Georgia O’Keeffe’s s Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1. purchased for $44.4 million back in 2015.

Norman Rockwell

While many people envision J. Howard Miller’s We Can Do It poster when they hear the phrase “Rosie the Riveter”, Crystal Bridges displays Norman Rockwell’s interpretation of Rosie created a year after Miller’s version. While she noshes on a sandwich over her lunch break, Rosie can be seen stepping on a copy of Hilter’s disturbing manifesto, Mein Kampf.

Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter at Crystal Bridges

All of the women who inspired “Rosie” were amazing, and I’m glad that my daughter had both the fictional Rosie and real-life record-setting Georgia O’Keeffe to inspire her during this outing.

 

George Segal

There are several Segal pieces at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, our hometown art museum in Kansas City, so we immediately recognized Depression Breadline as one of his works of art.

Depression Breadline by George Segal

Andy Warhol

Born Andrew Warhola, Andy Warhol is one of the most recognizable artists from the Pop Art movement. Crystal Bridges proudly displays several of Warhol’s pieces in its permanent collection and featured additional works by the Pop Art great in a special exhibition showcasing animals in art.

Coca-Cola Bottle by Andy Warhol at Crystal Bridges

This view of Andy Warhol’s Coca-Cola bottle, with Tom Wesselmann’s Dropped Bra in the foreground, demonstrates how Warhol’s piece would look if it happened to be hanging in my teenage daughter’s messy room. Well, if you imagine a few other clothes surrounding the dropped bra…

Tom Wesselmann's Dropped Bra and Andy Warhol's Coke bottle at the Crystal Bridges Museum

I really loved these ten, bright Pop Art animal pieces by Warhol that were framed together in the special exhibit featuring animals in art.

Andy Warhol Pop Art Animals at Crystal Bridges

And here is a close up of the rhino that caught my eye after recently visiting Kendi, the baby black rhino at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Pop Art rhino by Andy Warhol

 


5.  The building is another work of art…

The three, connected glass and wood buildings of Crystal Bridges were designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. The museum is surrounded by spring-fed water and is absolutely gorgeous!

Other famous works by Safdie include the Salt Lake City Public Library and Kansas City’s Kauffman Performing Arts Center.

Pro Tip:  If the weather cooperates, give yourself ample time to explore the sculpture garden outside the museum.

 

6.  …and so are the grounds

The beautiful museum complex is surrounded by 120 acres of forest. The grounds of Crystal Bridges include trails, a sculpture garden, and ample space for outdoor concerts and other events.

Fly’s Eye Dome

The Fly’s Eye Dome on the grounds of Crystal Bridges is the creation of R. Buckminster Fuller, an American designer and inventor who worked on a series of geodesic domes as a way of providing economical, efficient housing.

Fly's Eye Dome at Crystal Bridges

There were three prototypes developed, a 12-foot, a 24-foot, and a 50-foot version.  The 50-foot version is the structure on display on the grounds of the Crystal Bridges Museum.

 

Fiberglass Fly's Eye Dome at Crystal Bridges Museum

The circular openings of the fiberglass Fly’s Eye Dome allow air and light to enter without compromising the integrity of the structure.

Looking out the Fly's Eye Dome at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville

 

Frank Lloyd Wright House

Round out your visit with a tour of the Bachman-Wilson House designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  The house was originally built along the Millstone River in New Jersey, but was carefully moved to the museum in 2015.  

View photos of the Bachman-Wilson House courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum here

Pro Tip:  Tickets to the Frank Lloyd Wright house are limited, so be sure to plan ahead!  We arrived at Crystal Bridges right when it opened on a Saturday morning, and all of the tickets for the day were already gone. 

 

7.  Highly-rated, delicious restaurant

Louise is the biggest foodie in the family and has been since she was a toddler.  She may be the only kid I know who turns up her nose at fast food. Lucky for all of us, Eleven offers high-quality, tasty, upscale dining at a reasonable price at Crystal Bridges.  

Fun Fact:  The restaurant, Eleven, is named in honor of the museum’s opening date on November 11, 2011.

Eat at Eleven, Crystal Bridges' on site restaurant

Place your order at the counter and then grab a table and the incredibly friendly staff will bring it out to you on real plates with real silverware.  We shared a portobello sandwich and a bowl of butternut squash soup, and it was just perfect!

Pro Tip:  You can download the brunch, lunch, and dinner menus for Eleven here.

What about you?  Have you had a chance to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas?  Share your experience in the comments section below!

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