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Celebrating the American Spirit at Crystal Bridges

BENTONVILLE, Ark., October 13, 2011
Three major American companies have assumed sponsorship roles at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. General Electric, Coca-Cola and Goldman Sachs are sponsoring “Celebrating the American Spirit,” the inaugural exhibition showcasing the museum’s permanent collection.

“Crystal Bridges is an American museum and we are delighted to be supported by such esteemed American companies,” comments Don Bacigalupi, executive director of Crystal Bridges. “The philanthropic investment of General Electric, Coca-Cola, and Goldman Sachs creates a terrific synergy that enables us to tell a riveting story through our most extraordinary works of art.”

These iconic companies, each founded in the 19th century during an era of great invention and transformation, are American originals embodying the spirit of innovation, philanthropy, and tradition that the collection itself represents.

Founded in 1890 by inventor Thomas Alva Edison, General Electric has deep roots in the American Golden Age. “GE takes pride in honoring the past while building the future,” stated Charlene Begley, President & CEO, GE Home & Business Solutions. “For this reason, GE and GE Capital are proud to be a founding sponsor for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The extraordinary works in this inaugural exhibition are a true reflection of our country’s rich history, sure to be an inspiration for many generations to come.”

Coca-Cola is another American company that has made a global impact. Founded in 1886, Coke’s trademark red and white logo is recognizable around the world, in any language.

“Coca-Cola is pleased to partner with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which brings fine art to visitors in a compelling and innovative way,” said Steve Cahillane, President and CEO, Coca-Cola Refreshments. “For 125 years, Coca-Cola has been a part of the American experience and has supported initiatives that celebrate our nation’s history and heritage. We look forward to a strong relationship with the Museum based on our mutual commitment to inspiring moments of optimism and happiness.”

Goldman Sachs, founded in 1869, is headquartered in New York and maintains offices in all major financial centers around the world. “This is an iconic new museum that showcases the progress and evolution of American creativity through five centuries of American masterworks,” said Bruce A. Heyman, Managing Director and head of the Midwest region for Goldman Sachs’ Private Wealth Management business. “We are extremely proud to support this effort and the legacy of American artists it highlights.”

Featuring more than 400 works by American masters, and highlighting the full scope of American art and history, this historic and significant collection has been assembled to showcase the rich artistic traditions of American art. From the earliest work—dated circa 1675—to some of the most recognizable contemporary artists of today, the scope and scale of the collection is remarkable. Celebrating the American Spirit features a multiplicity of media, including paintings, sculpture, works on paper, glass and textiles.

About Celebrating the American Spirit
Celebrating the American Spirit is the inaugural exhibition showcasing the museum’s permanent collection. Twelve galleries in four separate buildings will house the collection, which is arranged chronologically to provide a journey through American history as guests move through the museum. Beginning with the Colonial period, guests will see the evolution of the depiction of landscape as it defines American identity and a sense of national culture. Among the earliest landscapes in the collection is one by John Taylor, one of the leading lights of landscape painting of the time. It illustrates the colonialists’ sense of connection to the neoclassical traditions of European landscape painting.

A dramatic change in this view is evident in the 19th century, when the American love-affair with its landscape comes to life. The collection’s iconic work for this era is Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits, in which the landscape is as much a subject as the figures: quintessential American writer William Cullen Bryant and painter Thomas Cole. These and other examples of the Hudson River School grace this gallery and showcase the wild beauty of the American landscape as seen by its artists.

In the latter half of the 19th century, new styles emerged from Europe to influence American art, including Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. These, in the hands of American artists such as John Singer Sargent and Maria Oakey Dewing bring to life an American landscape enriched with a celebration of paint with modern brushstrokes and vivid unmixed colors.

Grittier, but no less arresting, are the works on view in two galleries focusing on the first half of the 20th century. These galleries showcase art of the Industrial age, including examples of the Ashcan School such as George Wesley Bellows’ Excavation at Night, in which the American landscape takes on a far more urban aspect.

Post World War II and contemporary works are represented in yet another pair of galleries, and showcase American art’s coming-of-age on the international stage. Works in these galleries include powerful 20th century American artists whose styles helped elevate American art on the world stage: Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg and Joan Mitchell are represented here, among many others.

With some of the finest works by America’s most recognized artists alongside works by rising talent, Celebrating the American Spirit presents narratives and themes not found in other collections, providing a framework for understanding the collection as a whole. Two of these themes include the variety of ways in which artists have engaged with nature throughout the history of American art, and the presence of women in American society, with an emphasis on their evolving role, both as subject and as artist.