BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in 2011 in Wal-Mart’s hometown, Bentonville, Ark., with a respectable collection of work by famous artists, from Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter to a George Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart.
But the museum has just opened a massive exhibition of contemporary art called State of the Art that could be a game-changer. The museum is sometimes mocked by critics from outside the region for its location and Wal-Mart connections — its permanent collection was funded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton — but the new show represents a serious effort to introduce contemporary art to a mainstream audience far from the rarefied galleries of hipster neighborhoods and urban centers.
State of the Art showcases more than 200 works by 102 artists from around the country. All the works were created since 2011, and the show resulted from a 100,000-mile road trip by museum president Don Bacigalupi and curator Chad Alligood to discover under-recognized artists.