Skip to main content

Revisiting Wonder World, Crystal Bridges’ Inaugural Exhibition

picture of a gallery from the exhibition wonder world, including a sculpture of a table with grass and dirt on top of it
Roxy Paine, Bad Lawn, 1998, Epoxy, PVC, polymer, steel, wood, PETG, lacquer, oil paint, and earth, 48 x 120 x 84 in. (121.9 x 304.8 x 213.4 cm). Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2011.2

When Crystal Bridges opened in 2011, I was a faculty member in the Department of Culture and Society at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. I had been following the progress of the museum’s building during occasional trips to visit my parents, who live in Fayetteville. I was born and raised in the region, and I remember feeling very excited about the opening of an art museum in Northwest Arkansas.

I first visited Crystal Bridges during the holiday season that year, and I vividly remember the experience of seeing Wonder World, the inaugural temporary exhibition highlighting some key contemporary works from the collection. I was familiar with a few of the artists–Nick Cave, Chuck Close, and Andrew Wyeth, for example—but most of the artists and their works were a revelation.

gallery from the exhibition wonder world, including two Nick Cave Soundsuits and a sculpture of a dress that looks transparent

I’m not steeped in art history or practice, per se, but I love a good art museum, and this one took my breath away. Wow, this gorgeous building is in Arkansas, in Bentonville! Little did I know then that four years later, I would get a job at Crystal Bridges as an Interpretation Manager in our Exhibitions department, working closely with curators and the objects I encountered for the first time that day back in December 2011. I visited the museum three times during that holiday visit, and now I’m here nearly every day of the week, helping to create these exhibitions for our guests. Pretty cool, I must say.

In celebration of our tenth anniversary, enjoy a list (or “checklist” as we say in the museum biz) of the artworks featured in our very first temporary exhibition Wonder World. I hope it offers the thousands of other first-time visitors in 2011 a nice walk down memory lane. And if you didn’t get a chance to see Wonder World, don’t worry–you’ll probably see featured artworks from the exhibition in our collection galleries or temporary exhibitions whenever you visit. They’re still around, ready to delight for another decade and beyond!

gallery from the exhibition wonder world, including two Nick Cave Soundsuits and a large horn coming out of a large white ear.

Written by Stace Treat, head of interpretation, Crystal Bridges.