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Assessing the State of the Art in 2020

Six years after State of the Art opened, three new curators have traveled the country to find a new batch of artists to feature at Crystal Bridges and the Momentary for State of the Art 2020.


In 2014, just three years after the museum opened its doors for the first time, Crystal Bridges presented a massive exhibition featuring artists working around the country. After hundreds of thousands of miles traveled and hundreds of artist visits, State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now brought the work of 102 contemporary artists to the center of the country, in Bentonville, Arkansas.

As a result of those efforts, more than 175,000 visitors experienced this groundbreaking exhibition and engaged in meaningful discussions and events, including a free symposium with artist talks and a summit addressed by former President Bill Clinton. PBS even created a documentary called State of the Art, following the journeys of seven artists featured in the show, which was released in April 2019.

State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now was on view at Crystal Bridges in 2014-2015.

Much has changed in six years. In 2014, Barack Obama was our president. Ebola became a global health epidemic. Apple Watches were just being announced and Ice Bucket Challenges were the hottest social media trend. As the world turns, so does the state of contemporary art.

Six years later, it’s time to assess what art looks like moving into a new decade.

Left to right: Allison Glenn, associate curator of contemporary art, Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and curator of visual arts at the Momentary, and Alejo Benedetti, assistant curator of contemporary art. Photo taken at the Momentary.

Lauren Haynes is the curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and curator of visual arts at the Momentary. She, along with her colleagues Allison Glenn, associate curator of contemporary art, and Alejo Benedetti, assistant curator of contemporary art, traveled thousands of miles across the country to visit artists in their studios and communities. From their efforts, 61 artists were selected and will be featured at Crystal Bridges for the first time on a national stage through State of the Art 2020.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to have audiences explore new things that are being done in art today, by artists who come from diverse backgrounds and communities,” said Haynes. “On top of that, this is also meaningful in that we will be featuring contemporary art at the Momentary, our new contemporary art satellite space, as well as Crystal Bridges.”


“Contemporary art is incredibly democratic. Everyone living at this moment has a connection to it in some way, simply by virtue of existing while it’s being made now.” – Alejo Benedetti


The artists featured in this exhibition are at all stages of their careers, living and working in communities large and small across the country. What connects this particular group of artists, however, is a collection of themes that began to emerge during the curators’ visits, specifically concepts of world-building, mapping, sense of place, and temporality.

One of the works that will be featured in State of the Art 2020. Sama Alshaibi, The Cessation, 2019, Neon, aluminum, acrylic, copper, palm fronds, terracotta and sound, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of Sama Alshaibi; originally commissioned by Artpace San Antonio, Photo by Seale Photography Studios, ©Artpace San Antonio

“As we began traveling, we noticed similar conversations, questions, and ideas emerging among artists from different regions. These synergies drove the selection of artists and development of themes. This opportunity to work with such a wide range of thinkers across our two campuses is an exciting one,” said Glenn.

Now that the museum has established a level of understanding for contemporary art, this second iteration of the State of the Art exhibition asks visitors to come and simply experience it.


“All art was contemporary at some point. This is an opportunity to see and appreciate what our art looks like now, in 2020, straight from the communities across our nation.” – Lauren Haynes


State of the Art 2020 opens on February 22 at both Crystal Bridges and the Momentary. It is free to view at both locations. 


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