Crystal Bridges is:
A) An addiction rehab facility in Waco, Texas.
B) Some Yanni song with a 20-minute pan flute solo.
C) The latest, greatest club drug.
D) Ayn Rand’s last, unfinished novel.
E) Winner for Best Lead Actress (Girl-on-Girl) at the 2012 Adult Film Awards.
F) The highest level of Scientology—like, the Tom Cruise level.
G) None of the above.
If you guessed “G” you’re probably already on to perhaps the greatest naming crime in the history of art institutions. Crystal Bridges is a new American art museum located in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Bentonville, you say? Why isn’t that… Yes! The birthplace and HQ of mom ‘n pop crushing, labor-busting Wal-Mart. Crystal Bridges is heir Alice Walton’s baby and from what I can tell, she’s assembling the best collection tainted money can buy. That’s cool. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. Most of this country’s great museums enjoy a similar origin and pedigree.
What’s curious, what’s kind of come to be my obsession, is WHY. THAT. NAME?! According to the museum’s FAQs, its natural setting (a stream, some woods) serves as inspiration. Whatever. However “just folks” Walton happens to fashion herself (I don’t know, I don’t wanna know), surely she understands that “Crystal Bridges” is as cheap-sounding as the average Wal-Mart wage. It doesn’t say “I own Wal-Mart” so much as, “I shop at Wal-Mart, exclusively.” Maybe that’s Walton’s little joke, a gob of spit aimed at snooty taste arbiters who will actually have to tell the desk clerk at the only halfway decent hotel in Bentonville that they’re in town to visit *cough* Crystal Bridges. Maybe she’s asserting the rights of “little people” who typically aren’t consulted in aesthetic, curatorial or museum-going matters and she truly believes an institution that sounds like a drug & porn new age cult will feel more welcoming. Maybe she’s saying that, unlike her parvenu forebears, she’s not ashamed of her new money and won’t bow to bourgeois tastes. Maybe not.
One thing I know for sure: As soon as that first shovelful of dirt hits the casket, her heirs will see to it that Crystal Bridges becomes The Walton Museum of American Art.