The new Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art, assembled and funded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton, opens today in Bentonville, Arkansas. NPR Weekend Edition covered some of the controversy (or in my opinion, non-controversy) regarding the acquisition of art pieces from non-museum public and private institutions like universities and libraries. While listening, I went browsing through the collection on-line. I immediately recognized something on the main page of the 19th Century gallery:
That little girl with her dog was sold at Skinners Inc in Boston at the March 7, 2010 American Furniture & Decorative Arts auction! With an auction estimate of $8-12,000, she sold for $41,475 (despite her pouty scowl).
News coverage of the museum’s opening has noted the supposed difficulty of finding quality American art pieces with which to create a new museum. I think the above example clearly illustrates that there are beautiful pieces still in family or private collections that have not made it into museums. I can only imagine that there was an army of art historians and curators sweeping the country looking for these undervalued pieces in American museums, commercial galleries and auctions. Likewise, university, library or hospital collections may not attract the visitor the art deserves and so I see no problem with works being sold so that the funds can go toward the primary missions of the institutions.
I’m not sure when I’ll be in Arkansas but at least the highlights are online.