Presenting The Momentary: Crystal Bridges' 'Rebellious Younger Sister'


Presenting The Momentary: Crystal Bridges' 'Rebellious Younger Sister'
The Momentary Chairperson Olivia Walton looks on as Director Lieven Bertels makes remarks at the museum Friday. (Marty Cook)

Crystal Bridges’ “rebellious younger sister” is set to open on schedule Saturday in Bentonville.

The Momentary, a museum for contemporary arts both visual and performing, was years in the planning and design, officials said. And they gave a sneak preview to media members and invited guests Friday.

The renovated Krafts Foods facility is now a museum that will show the State of Art 2020, an exhibit of more than 100 works from 61 artists. The Momentary has 24,000 SF of gallery space, as well as workshops for visiting artists, a coffee shop and a bar on the sixth floor with a glass floor that allows visitors to look down into one of the galleries.

Momentary Chairperson Olivia Walton gave brief opening remarks in which she called the museum the rebellious younger sister of the hugely popular Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located a stone’s throw away. Both museums —  The Momentary is considered Crystal Bridges’ satellite — were founded by Walton Family members.

“To me, The Momentary is an extension of our family’s commitment to giving back to the region that has given us so much,” Olivia Walton said. “The Momentary is, hopefully, the perfect complement to Crystal Bridges.”

Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, founded Crystal Bridges. Tom Walton and his wife, Olivia, and Steuart Walton, Sam Walton's grandsons, created The Momentary.

The Momentary Director Lieven Bertels said the museum is meant to be a “living room” museum for guests. There is no admission fee thanks to a grant from Walmart Inc. of Bentonville.

“It is such a joyous way of celebrating momentum when you can take one of your old buildings, which is known to so few people in the community, and open it up in this spectacular way,” Bertels said. “If you see a few pipes that is of course because this used to be a cheese factory.”

The museum gave a brief tour of some of the exhibits led by curators Lauren Haynes (visual arts) and Pia Agrawai (performing arts). The tour included a meeting with an interpretive dance team that will perform at the opening.

“What I really appreciate about the building is the element of discovery, which is very important to us,” Bertels said. “You will want to come back and you will want to discover new parts. That discovery is intentional.”

Bertels said The Momentary’s goal is to be the opposite of the traditional classic museum that tries to create an awed reverence for the art displayed. Bertels said that is the “living room” idea of The Momentary.

“There are many ways to engage with art,” Bertels said. “What a [traditional] museum does … you get a very official view of art. It is meant to be impressive when you climb those stairs of those famous museums. There is that almost religious silence in the room. 

“We want to really have a place when you can come in and the art is around you. It is the idea that you feel totally at home.”

Bertels said the museum will rotate its exhibits several times a year. Like the dance performance, the museum is designed to create a memory in the moment.

“It is about being in the moment; what is relevant today? What are the topics today? What are the artists who are bringing out those topics?” Bertels said.