BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Let’s say it’s Sunday afternoon. It’s raining. You’ve spent a couple hours admiring the impressive permanent collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the nearly 3-year-old museum founded by Wal-Mart heiress (and Parker County resident) Alice Walton.But now you’ve got a 400-mile drive home from your weekend getaway in the Ozarks. And your companion wants to hit the road.Here’s the advice: Send him to the cafe for a smoothie, and tell him there’s free Wi-Fi.Then buy yourself an $8 ticket to the temporary exhibition “The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism.” By the time you have zipped through the more than 60 works, many by the greatest names in art — Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin, Degas, Cezanne — he will have fortified with a frozen, fruity concoction and returned emails, caught up on the day’s headlines and checked the weather forecast for the six-hour trip home.He’s getting the better end of the deal, of course, because you’ll want desperately to spend more time with these masters, to study their paintings, drawings and sculptures and reflect on how their work inspired that of American artists. You’ll think of returning — but you’ve only got a few months.“The Paley Collection,” organized by The Museum of Modern Art in New York, opened at Crystal Bridges on March 15; it will return to the MoMA when it closes here July 7.The selections come from the vast private collection of entrepreneur William Paley — the brains behind the broadcasting empire we know now as CBS. Upon his death in 1990, he willed his entire art collection to the MoMA.Paley, who was most active as a collector in the mid-1930s, reportedly was passionate about modern art and selected works he liked rather than those that necessarily would make good investments. “For this reason, many of the works he selected were small in dimension — a size suitable for the walls of Paley’s personal New York apartment, where most of the works resided throughout his lifetime,” press materials say.Organizers say they hope the exhibition provides patrons some insight into the mind of a collector, as “temporary exhibition galleries at Crystal Bridges have been modified with partial walls and columns to increase viewers’ sense of personal relationship with the works and reflect the intimate conditions under which the collector intended them to be viewed,” the materials say.Guests will see works they’ll recognize instantly: Cezanne’s Milk Can and Apples, 1879-80; Gauguin’s Washerwomen, 1888; Toulouse-Lautrec’s M. de Lauradour, 1897; Picasso’s Boy Leading a Horse, 1905-06.Modernism, in the way of post-impressionism, cubism and surrealism, grabbed momentum in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but didn’t gain a foothold in the United States until the famous Armory Show of 1913. One aim of this multiroom exhibit is to illustrate how masters of European modernism inspired many American artists. To that end, a concurrent, complementary exhibit called “The European Connection” displays works of American modernists that belong to the Crystal Bridges permanent collection. These include three paintings by Alfred Henry Maurer that have not yet been on view at the museum, as well as works by Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove and Max Weber.Being able to view the artworks of the Europeans nearly side-by-side with those of the Americans allows guests to examine influences, connections and relationships between the art movements on the continents.You might find yourself walking back from one of the “American” rooms to one of the “European” areas just to ponder the influence of something you saw a few minutes earlier.Or it might suddenly hit you that the more time you spend in here, the less time you’ll get in the gift shop.And you’ll meet your companion back in the cafe and try to convince him he needs a post-smoothie espresso before the rainy drive home. Good luck with that.
Stephanie Allmon, 817-390-7852 Twitter: @stephallmon