These Wal-Mart items are pricey

A model photo of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Tess Vigeland: Art institutions did not have an easy go of it during the recession. A recent survey from the American Association of Museums showed more than 70 percent of them under financial stress. Government support is down, and so is investment income. But one museum will not be joining the ranks of the struggling.

This week, the Walton Family Foundation gave $800 million -- cash -- to the new art museum being built by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton. And that is a record.

Marketplace's Janet Babin reports.


Janet Babin: Wal-Mart is known for its killer low prices. But in the art world, the heiress to the chain has another reputation: big spender.

Alice Walton has outbid many an established gallery for key pieces she wants to show off at her museum, called Crystal Bridges, expected to open on Veteran's Day. Crystal Bridges' Rod Bigelow says there will be eight galleries on the wooded site, just a short walk from Wal-Mart's Bentonville headquarters.

Rod Bigelow: The work is all American, and it does span five centuries, so it will include everything from pre-colonial work to contemporary.

Exactly what's in most of the collection of 400 pieces, though, hasn't been made public yet. Lee Rosenbaum blogs as CultureGrrl at ArtsJournal.com.

Lee Rosenbaum: There's been a kind of striptease in revealing just a few works at a time, and the real test about whether this is going to be truly a distinguished museum is when we finally learn whether it has truly a distinguished collection.

Rosenbaum says the size of this gift may spur other art benefactors to give lavishly, too -- if only to compete with Crystal Springs.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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