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Wal-Mart family's $800-million art museum gift is stupendous -- but not a record

May 6, 2011 |  8:49 am

Crystal Bridges model It makes for a good story, but the munificent $800-million gift from the family that owns Wal-Mart, meant to endow programs and operations at Alice Walton's under-construction art museum in rural Arkansas, is not the largest such gift ever made to a U.S. art museum.

Not even close. In the battle of the billionaires, that gilded record is still easily held by J. Paul Getty, whose bequest to his eponymous Los Angeles art museum was three times larger.

The Walton gift was announced Wednesday. With the possible exception of the Getty, most any art museum in the nation would give its eyeteeth for the philanthropic generosity that has just landed on the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Friday's Wall Street Journal compared the two gifts, asserting that the "gift from the Walton Family Foundation trumps the $660 million in oil stocks that J. Paul Getty bequeathed" to his museum in 1976. Adjusted for inflation, however, Getty's bequest 35 years ago amounts to nearly $2.5 billion today.

The online Journal story (and its Twitter feed) did hedge its bets a bit, describing the Walton pledge as "the largest cash donation ever." Getty's stocks had to be converted to cash.

The Walton pledge puts $350 million into an endowment allocated for operating expenses, which are expected to run about $16 million annually. A second fund of $325 million is earmarked for art acquisitions. The remaining $125-million endowment is slated for upkeep on the 201,000-square-foot complex, scheduled to open in Bentonville, home of the retailer's headquarters, on Nov. 11.

Forbes lists four Waltons and their family members among the 10 wealthiest Americans, with a combined net worth in excess of $84 billion.


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Art review: "David Smith: Cubes & Anarchy" at LACMA

-- Christopher Knight

Photo: A model of the new museum. Credit: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art



Comments () | Archives (10)

These people are so rich they could cure cancer if they chose to. they could feed millions of starving people around the globe. they could improve living conditions for countless families. they could fund medical supplies to underdeveloped and needy countries. How about the families in the US that a little could mean a lot to. Lets just send them to the art museum that will make their lives better. I'm not bitter or anything.

Not a very nice thing when you have thousands of employees at Walmart being cut hours and living in hunger. Hipocrites!!!!

Say, could I borrow ten bucks. Pay it back in my next life.

Medical clinics ? Schools ? Research ? Scholarships ?

I am always amazed when these people give money to ballets, symphonies or museum that will manly benefit the elite.

Jay wrote: "These people are so rich they could cure cancer if they chose to."

Wishful thinking. They could invest the money in cancer research, but that doesn't mean they'll find a cure. Art therapy improves the quality of life for cancer patients. Maybe looking at (and creating) art will help extend people's lives by improving their mental outlook, which is a critical part of fighting the disease.

Exposure to the arts can uplift and inspire people to better themselves in ways that are not immediately measured in return, and that's why some fail to see the value in these investments.

It's the Walton's money, and they'll spend it however they choose. I don't shop at Wal-Mart. That's my choice.

Same as Eli Broad, robber barons will make their mausoleums. At least Bill Gates does good with his fortune, possibly because he actually makes something, not just figure out ways to penny pinch and market bad products.

now the bad news.... its in Awrkansaw. Try paying your employees a little better so they can get off of welfare. The states are paying for this museum, lousy wages at walmart= walmart employees taking money from government programs.

Why should humanity be bitter about their donation, the Walton children worked hard for Daddy's inheritance...

The museum will be for the benefit of the thousands of corporate employees that live in the area, the community that has supported the Wal-Mart corporation since it's inception and the state of Arkansas which has one of the poorest education systems in the country. The Waltons have long attempted to fund arts, education and medical facilities throughout the state. Imagine how a complex like this will help grow the local economy. It's ignorant to assume this endowment isn't helping anyone but the elite. It is making art available to the masses that would not be exposed to it otherwise.

Waltons would be better off to put these money into the pockets of their employees, or at least they could improve their own stores.
You know how professional architects call it: WALMARCHITECTURE.
Here, take a look:

Shame! (They probably got some nice tax break for this donation)


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