Crystal Bridges’s New Space the Momentary Targets Millennial Art Lovers

Jack Radley
Feb 26, 2020 5:46PM

Exterior of the Momentary. Photo by Dero Sanford. Courtesy of the Momentary, Bentonville, Arkansas .

On February 22nd, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art inaugurated the Momentary, a satellite space for visual, performing, and culinary arts. The new space expands the institution’s cultural footprint in Bentonville, Arkansas, to solidify the city as a preeminent arts hub. The vision of Tom, Olivia, and Steuart Walton—the next generation of the Waltons, the Walmart founders and America’s wealthiest family—the Momentary offers an innovative approach to integrating art into everyday experiences for art-world cognoscenti and newcomers alike.

While Crystal Bridges boasts an esteemed permanent collection and 200,000 square feet of space, the Momentary ignites the downtown Bentonville area with an event-heavy program of temporary exhibitions, festivals, and performances. The space aims to anticipate the next century of contemporary art institutions. The Momentary Council chairperson Olivia Walton hopes the space will specifically entice millennial audiences. “Our space is a grittier, more rebellious younger sister to Crystal Bridges,” she said. The Momentary provides a platform for dynamic commissions from a wide range of artists working today while beckoning a new generation of the art-going public, as Walmart prepares to open its new home office in Bentonville.

Lobby gallery at the Momentary. Photo by Dero Sanford. Courtesy of the Momentary, Bentonville, Arkansas.


Taking a non-collecting Kunsthalle format, the Momentary’s ambitious programming is matched by its architecture—a 63,000-square-foot, radically reimagined former Kraft cheese factory. Calli Verkamp, lead project architect from the Chicago-based firm Wheeler Kearns Architects, repurposed the existing building while maintaining its historic value. The space seamlessly integrates 70 years of opaque, heavy industrial spaces with complementary contemporary touches, resulting in singular exhibition spaces. The Momentary took cues from institutions like MoMA PS1 and MASS MoCA in its embrace of the building’s history and its rejection of the sterility of the white cube.

However, the Momentary acknowledges that its history predates the cheese factory: The museum collaborated with indigenous peoples who descend from the original custodians of the land. The weekend’s opening celebration began with an indigenous smoking ceremony led by the Osage Nation and the Yuin Nation.

Mezzanines at the Momentary. Photo by Dero Sanford. Courtesy of the Momentary, Bentonville, Arkansas.

Main entrance of the Momentary, featuring Addie Roanhorse's Sway. Photo by Dero Sanford. Courtesy of the Momentary, Bentonville, Arkansas.

“We were very conscious of thinking about the history of this space, not only the way that we see it as a factory, but also really thinking about the indigenous communities and wanting to engage with a graphic designer and artist who could really help articulate that and create something that would be another draw to the building,” said Lauren Haynes, curator of visual arts at the Momentary. Oklahoma-based artist Addie Roanhorse, a member of the Osage Nation, created Sway, an arresting arrow pattern located on the exterior glass of the Momentary’s Tower and Container spaces and in the main entryway. The pattern pays homage to Osage attire and beading patterns. It comprises a scrim on the exterior of the building that allows in natural light and doubles as a high-definition projection surface at night. This singular feature speaks to the Momentary’s efforts to marry design, architecture, stewardship, and innovation.

The inaugural TIME BEING festival kicked off opening weekend by turning even the most unexpected parts of the building into territories for performance. Oakland-based dance company BANDALOOP’s FLOOD (2020), a daring new performance staged on the side of the Momentary Tower, undoubtedly rose as the highlight. Atop an oceanic light projection, performers scaled the side of the building with ropes in a dazzling choreography, accompanied by haunting soundscapes.

BANDALOOP at the Momentary. Photo by Dero Sanford. Courtesy of the Momentary, Bentonville, A

“State of the Art 2020,” a quinquennial survey exhibition of American art, shepherds the institution’s promotion of contemporary American artists. The exhibition follows up on Crystal Bridges’s first iteration, which toured five venues and sparked a PBS documentary. Featuring the work of 61 artists based across the U.S., the exhibition remedies the geographic myopia of coast-heavy surveys like the Whitney Biennial. Organized at both the Momentary and Crystal Bridges around the loose themes of “world-building,” “mapping,” “sense of place,” and “temporality,” the show often feels more like a survey of the exhibition potentials of the space than a true look into the variety of art being made in the U.S. today. Nonetheless, the show offers fresh presentations of some critical—and often under-recognized—American artists.

Suchitra Mattai, Dialectic, 2019. Photo by Wes Magyar. Courtesy of K Contemporary Art and the artist.

Highlights that both flaunt the space’s architectural potential and honor the integrity of the artwork include Edra Soto’s Open 24 Hours (2017). Her pristine white vitrines house polished liquor bottles found on her daily walks in Chicago’s Garfield Park, challenging notions of “detritus” and making an industrial room devoid of natural light shine. Additionally, Alice Pixley Young’s installation Geist, Lighthouse and Transmissions (2020) enlivens the closet-like Hydration Column space with dynamic silhouettes of light projections and cut paper. Suchitra Mattai’s Dialectic (2019) commands an enormous, more traditional gallery space with a vibrant bricolage of vintage saris from India and Sharjah, as well as some owned by the artist’s relatives.

The Momentary will also support the creation of new work through its artist residency program. Three immaculate studios for sculpture, performance, painting, and culinary work will host artists for up to three months. Haynes noted that the residency “is really an opportunity for us to bring artists in from all over.” The institution has already piloted the residency for the last two years with notable artists like Ebony G. Patterson and Will Rawls.

Tavares Strachan, installation view of You Belong Here, 2020. Photo by Stephen Ironside. Courtesy of the Momentary, Bentonville, Arkansas.

One of the ways the Momentary often describes itself is as a “living room” for the community. Like the newly opened Fotografiska in New York, the Momentary allows visitors to walk around the galleries with beverages and embeds coworking spaces into the museum. A rare permanent commission on the building, Tavares Strachan’s massive neon sculpture You Belong Here (2020), grabs attention of visitors to the nearby 8th Street Market and will soon solidify itself as a local, Instagram-friendly landmark.

Ultimately, the Momentary appears poised to serve as a nimble, forward-thinking platform for contemporary artists and audiences alike. Simultaneously, it will serve as a hotspot for a nascent community that will shape the urban landscape as Bentonville negotiates its national ascent.

Jack Radley

Clarification: A previous version of this article referred to Lauren Haynes as curator of contemporary art; she is curator of visual arts at the Momentary.