Crystal Bridges

This past weekend my friend Jeremy and I went on a road trip to check out the new Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. Below are some of my crappy pictures with captions. Enjoy!

Downtown Bentonville was having a lovely farmers market. It also has these giant pink snails all over the place. I don't really know why, but they're a lot of fun.

The museum is a set of connected buildings in a valley. They cross over this pool of a creek. Visitors descend several storeys to get to the entrance. 

This is where the museum's name comes from--it's supposed to look like crystal bridges over the creek.

In better weather this pool would be full, and there would be waterfalls under the restaurant building. 

One benefit of putting your museum in the middle of nowhere? The surrounding landscape is gorgeous.

You can tell it's a new building built for this purpose. Even the ceilings and lighting are aesthetic.

The designers anticipated large crowds; the galleries are huge and open. 
Looking out from the modern gallery to sculpture and trees.

The collection is so large, and arranged in a chronologically-ordered forced path, that they break up the flow with mini-libraries and transition areas with nothing but pretty views out the windows.

I don't know if it's a distaste for abstraction or just that it's at the end of the journey, but the contemporary gallery was the least populated.

The museum expects a lot of visitors with little art museum experience. When you enter the first gallery there's a guard who explains the basic rules over and over again. However, almost nobody used the iPod guided tour. I found this surprising and refreshing.

Even the gift store is lush and roomy. It's probably the fanciest museum gift store I've seen.

And oh yeah, they have art. So much art. The collection is comprehensive and thorough. So many pieces, almost all of them paintings. So many! This is one of the first you see, and one of the most famous. 

This was probably my favorite picture there. It's a large and subtle portrait of Anne Page, whoever that is, by Dennis Miller Bunker, whoever that is. I want to learn more about this painter.

I won't be the first to mention the collection's more quirky elements. This is one of a series of paintings on pallets, taking advantage of the hole in the center.

Hello, beautiful. They have a few Sargent portraits,  and a few similar paintings from other artists of the same period.

Adding fuel to the "Wal-mart Museum" reputation, there was quite a crowd around this Norman Rockwell "Rosie the Riveter" piece. The man in front of me kept assuring his companion that this is not the original.

This Stuart Davis piece, "Rue de l'Echaude," is the other standout for me. This photo doesn't do justice to the colors of this thing.

The contemporary gallery doesn't shy away from race issues, including this huge Kara Walker piece.

And here's my friend Jer, remarking on how much the cafe looks like a European train station.

Art attack in Houston

An unknown and (as of yet) uncaught assailant spray-painted a bull and the word "Conquista" on a 1929 Picasso painting at the Menil.

This isn't a case of an emotional outpouring or drunk mess. Initial reports point to the vandal being an "up-and-coming Mexican-American artist" who wanted to pay some sort of tribute to Picasso.

If you're in Houston,

you should go see a number of amazing things that are here right now:

The Treasures of Kenwood House

and Masterworks from Malba Fundacion Constantini at the MFAH.

reverse of volume RG at the Rice Gallery.

Skyspace at Rice.

Follow-up: Cleaning Mona Lisa

I downloaded (my first electronic book! Possibly my last!) Cleaning Mona Lisa and had a look.

Here's what I like about it: the amazing high-resolution images, the interview with the conservator at the National Gallery of Art, its thesis that understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a certain medium helps us understand and appreciate works of art.

What I don't like so much: the author's "I'm so excited about art and you probably don't know much about it!!!" tone, the surprisingly short length (22 pages), the inevitable but disheartening conclusion that "digital cleaning" will give us electronic copies of paintings that are better than the originals because we can see what they (probably) looked like when first painted. I especially hate the interactive feature where you rub your finger on the painting to take it from its "before" state to its "after." Is that really what iPads are good for?

So, should you spend the few bucks to get this yourself? Yeah, go for it. But be warned: it begins with an annoyingly enthusiastic video, so you'll want to turn the volume down before opening the book. Unless you like annoyingly enthusiastic, but I'm guessing that if you read Art History Links, you probably don't.

More fun with projectors!

Not as elegant as the sails of the Sydney Opera House, but maybe more fun.

Lighting the Sails

I'm totally inspired to do more with my projector when we get to the new building. Check out what these guys did with the Sydney Opera House.

Art Lab

I downloaded and tried out the new iPad app from MoMA, called Art Lab.  It's an easy-to use painting app with a quick tutorial. It's made for kids, but seems great for anyone who wants to doodle and doesn't want to get bogged down with all the options and intricacies of a more professional painting app.

But the really cool stuff is when you tap on the "Activities" button. It's got six activities: Create a sound composition, create a chance collage, draw with scissors, create a line design, create an "exquisite corpse," and create a shape poem. These are the things that will keep you busy, no matter your age, for quite a while.

The Twombly Gallery. No, not that one...

It seems Houston won't be the only city with a space dedicated to showcasing works from Cy Twombly. There's a new space in New York, just down the street from the Met, that will house the Twombly Foundation and its collection.

New shows this month

I don't necessarily know where you are this summer, and I certainly don't know where all you're going. So just in case, here's ArtNet's rundown of all the big shows opening around the country this month. Now go see some art.

I don't know where you'll be this Thursday, but I'll be hitting the CAMH and the MFAH, probably around 10am. Let me know if you want to join me--or just show up and try to track me down.