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Alice Walton appoints Don Bacigalupi to direct Crystal Bridges

August 17, 2009 | 12:47 pm

Don_Bacigalupi4 Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the “premier national art institution” in Bentonville, Ark., envisioned by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, has yet to set its opening date, but it has a director.

Walton announced today that Don Bacigalupi, director of the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio, will take charge of the fledgling museum in late October.

A scholar of postwar American art and popular culture, Bacigalupi has distinguished himself at several mainstream institutions. During his six-year tenure in Toledo, he oversaw the addition of an airy glass exhibition space designed by the Tokyo firm SANAA, which has won popular approval and critical raves.

Educated at the University of Texas in Austin, Bacigalupi taught art history at his alma mater before shifting to museum management. He was curator of contemporary art at the San Antonio Museum of Art from 1993 to 1995 and director and chief curator of the University of Houston’s Blaffer Gallery for the next four years.  He moved to Southern California in 1999 and directed the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park until his move to Toledo in 2003.

Crystal bridges In Arkansas, Bacigalupi will oversee a growing collection of American art amassed by Walton, who has been in the news for paying the kinds of prices most museums cannot afford. She plans an institution  “dedicated to American art and artists, learning and community gatherings,” one that also will spur the region's economic development. The artworks, made from the Colonial period to modern times, will be housed in a 100,000-square-foot building designed by Moshe Safdie on a 100-acre site.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photos: Don Bacigalupi. Credit: Courtesy of Toledo Museum of Art. Model of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Credit: John Horner