How much might the 100,000-SF expansion of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville cost?
That’s hard to say, but a safe guess — with emphasis on the word “guess” — is more than $100 million.
The museum, funded largely by Walmart Inc. heiress Alice Walton and the Walton family, has never been chatty about price tags, of artworks or the building itself. Back in 2010, a year before the 200,000-SF museum opened, Arkansas Business estimated the building project at $150 million.
In announcing the expansion this April, museum Executive Director Rod Bigelow said it was too early to say how much the expansion will cost. But he said funding will come from the museum’s existing capital improvements endowment. Bigelow noted that while philanthropists in Arkansas and across the country will contribute, the museum will not launch a fundraising campaign.
The museum’s latest IRS Form 990, for the year ended Dec. 31, 2019, lists the value of land, buildings and equipment at $256 million. The museum occupies 120 acres.
Ten years after the museum opened on Nov. 11, 2011 (see Crystal Bridges at Ten), $150 million doesn’t go as far as it used to, what with supply chain issues and inflation, so a $100 million estimate on a 50% expansion is probably conservative.
The museum’s total assets are valued at $1.5 billion. Those assets include artworks like Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1,” which sold for $44.4 million, more than three times the previous record for a work by a woman artist.
International architecture firm Safdie Architects, which designed the original museum, is designing the expansion. Hight Jackson Associates of Rogers is the associate architect, and CEI Engineering Associates Inc. of Bentonville will serve as civil engineer. Flintco LLC of Tulsa is the general contractor.
Officials said the new space will increase capacity exhibitions, educational and outreach initiatives, cultural programming and events.
Bigelow told Arkansas Business last month that the museum hopes to begin construction on the expansion early next year and finish in 2025. The museum recently reconfigured the main lobby and courtyard, a project completed in May.
Asked what’s the one thing she knows now that she wishes she’d known before she began working on Crystal Bridges, Walton told Arkansas Business, “I knew that opening the museum would be a journey and that it would evolve over time, but it felt like just getting the building open was the goal. Of course once the building was open, a different journey began, and that’s been an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable one. Here we are in 2021, ready to expand the museum to take us into the next decade.”