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Five Years and Counting: Growing and Sharing Crystal Bridges’ Collection

Brandon Otto Photography

As Crystal Bridges approaches its fifth anniversary, we’ll be writing blog posts that highlight the Museum’s changes and accomplishments since opening on November 11, 2011.


First up:  Let’s talk about the art!


Museum guests enter Crystal Bridges on opening day, 2011

Museum guests enter Crystal Bridges on opening day, 2011


When Crystal Bridges opened to the public, there were 1,555 works of art in the permanent collection.  Almost a third of those were on view for the opening. Since that date, the collection has grown to 2,373 artworks (to date), an increase of about 65%.


Though the Crystal Bridges collection is growing across all genres and time periods, the area of greatest growth since our opening has been in contemporary art. Notable contemporary artworks added to the collection since opening include Jeff Koons’s Hanging Heart (Gold/Magenta), Felix Gonzalez-Torres “Untitled” (L.A.), and Maya’s Quilt of Life, by Faith Ringgold.



Jeff Koons poses for photos with his sculpture “Hanging Heart (Gold/Magenta)” in the Museum’s restaurant


Not all the works in the Museum’s permanent collection are on view at once.  Some, like watercolors, drawings, and other works on paper, as well as textiles, risk light damage if they are on view for too long, so each time they go out on view, they must be kept in the dark vault for a period of time proportional to the time they were out. Some works leave Crystal Bridges to go on view in other museums as part of temporary or traveling exhibitions. The portrait of George Washington in our collection by Charles Willson Peale, for example, is currently in residence at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC as part of the temporary exhibition America’s Presidents.


Charles Willson Peale's portrait of George Washington from Crystal Bridges' collection takes center stage at the National Portrait Gallery's "America's Presidents" exhibition

Charles Willson Peale’s portrait of George Washington from Crystal Bridges’ collection takes center stage at the National Portrait Gallery’s “America’s Presidents” exhibition


Although our collection has had an impressive growth rate, the overall number of works in our collection is a drop in the bucket compared to more established museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, whose permanent collection numbers more than 400,000 objects. Sadly, because no museum has infinite exhibition space, the majority of artworks in museum collections are rarely, if ever, on view.


Like other museum, Crystal Bridges only has so much space in the galleries for showing art. Yet making the artworks in our collection available for people to see and enjoy is a very important part of our mission. In order to get as much of the rest of the collection as possible out on view, we have a busy schedule of art movement that keeps the team of preparators hopping, year round. Works are being moved from the vault to the gallery or back again every week.


The curators also rearrange artworks within galleries: creating new groupings in order to highlight different aspects of the works or to tell different stories. (A good example is the current pairing of contemporary artist Roxy Paine’s Bad Lawn with the classic Hudson River School landscapes in the Early Nineteenth-Century Gallery.)


Photo by Marc F. Henning "Bad Lawn" sculpture by Roxy Paine (2010) on display June 19, 2016, in the Colonial to Early 19th Century Gallery at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.

Photo by Marc F. Henning
“Bad Lawn” sculpture by Roxy Paine (2010) on display June 19, 2016, in the Colonial to Early 19th Century Gallery at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.


The works in the collection are also shared outside the Museum through teaching posters and prints made available for educators, an online course for high school students, and catalogs.


Can’t make it to Crystal Bridges?  The collection can be explored online! With a few clicks you can see which works are currently on view, browse recent acquisitions, and enjoy works on paper that are rarely exhibited in the galleries.


Over the next five years (and beyond), our curators and educators will be exploring new ways of getting the artwork “out there” to be enjoyed: through traveling exhibitions, virtual exhibitions, books, and more.



Linda DeBerry
Senior Copy Editor / Publications Manager

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