Curators Go On A 100,000-Mile Road Trip To Find America’s Unheralded Artists

The results of this exhaustive journey will be showcased in an upcoming exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

A “weaving” of discarded lottery tickets, a canvas of twisting flowers made from melted plastic, and voodoo-esque dolls are just a few of the treasures set to be included in an ambitious survey of 21st-century American art opening at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, this September.


The show is the result of an exhaustive 100,000-mile road trip, in which museum president Don Bacigalupi and assistant curator Chad Alligood zigzagged across the country to visit 1,000 unheralded American artists in their studios. Over 200 works by 102 artists made the cut, with a careful eye toward even geographic representation. The museum has yet to release the full list of artists included in the show, but for many, it will be a first moment in the spotlight.

Cobi Moules

“There have been times over the past few months when I wake up and literally have no idea what city I’m in,” Bacigalupi told The New York Times in February, toward the end of his odyssey. That effort has paid off: “The exhibition is a glimpse into the state of art in our nation at this moment,” he said yesterday. “By examining a wide range of works by artists from across the country, we can gain insight into our nation as a whole: our collective passions, challenges, and concerns.”

For Crystal Bridges, founded by Walmart heiress Alice Walton, State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now represents an opportunity to redefine perceptions of American art, as well as its own reputation. Walton has been snapping up American art for over a decade, dropping $20 million at a time to establish the collection for her Ozarks answer to coastal institutions like the Frick Collection and the Getty Center.

The show debuts on Sept. 13.

About the author

Staff writer Ainsley (O'Connell) Harris covers the business of technology with a focus on financial services and education. Follow her on Twitter at @ainsleyoc.