Given their incredible reserves of cash and buying power it was inevitably only a matter of time before supermarkets got involved in the art world. The upcoming Walmart-funded Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, soon to open in Bentonville, Arkansas, owes its impressive collection to the passions of Alice Walton, heiress of the world’s largest company (it employs over 2 million staff), who bought her first 'work of art' at the tender age of 10 (a reproduction of Picasso’s ‘Blue Nude’, bought in her father's dime store).
Ranked tenth on the 2011 Forbes 400 richest people in America list and with an estimated fortune of $20.9 billion, Walton has been outbidding top art institutions since 2005 for acquisitions with the help and advice of art historian John Wilmerding, previously senior curator at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
Since 2007 alone, Crystal Bridges has reported acquisitions of $141.7 million. However, art insiders claim this figure is only around a tenth of its total purchases. Walton also owns a number of significant pieces personally, including the $35 million plus "Kindred Spirits" by Asher Durand. On its opening in November, the museum is expected to instantly become one of the best centres for American art in the world.
It's formidable collection ranges from colonial era portraiture to work by some of the best contemporary sculptors. Artists in the permanent collection will include Andy Warhol, Thomas Eakins, Jasper Johns, John Singer Sargent and Jackson Pollock, not to mention contemporary big names such as Jenny Holzer and Claes Oldenburg. There are also plans to house temporary exhibitions.
Designed by architect Moshe Safdie (who apprenticed with the celebrated Louis Kahn in his younger years) and engineer Buro Happold, the museum will take the form of a collection of pavilions sited around ponds with surrounding nature trails and gardens. The building and sculpture park will occupy 20,200 square metres. The museum opens November 11. Over to you, Lidl.