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Workman Steps Down as Director of Crystal Bridges Museum

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton and scheduled to open in Bentonville, Ark., in 2010, announced that executive director Robert Workman has decided to step down.

NEW YORK—The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton and scheduled to open in Bentonville, Ark., in 2010, announced that executive director Robert Workman has decided to step down.

According to a statement from the museum, Workman decided to leave because “he could not make a commitment to stay well beyond the museum opening” and believes the museum would be “better served if he left this year.” Workman has agreed to stay on through the end of the year as the museum begins a national search for a new director.

Workman described his choice as a “difficult decision to make, and I did not make it lightly,” according to the museum’s statement. “I believe it is the right time to prepare for new leadership to build on our achievements and maximize the opportunities provided by the opening of this institution,” he said. Workman is a former deputy director of the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Tex., who came to Crystal Bridges as a consultant in 2004. Walton, who serves on the board of trustees of the Amon Carter Museum and is also the chairperson of the board of Crystal Bridges, said, “I accept Bob’s resignation with regret, understanding and gratitude. … Crystal Bridges wouldn’t be what it is without Bob. I am pleased he will continue to work with us and deeply grateful for the innumerable contributions he has made.”

The Crystal Bridges Museum’s growing collection of American art covers the colonial period through the modern era. Recently the museum announced the addition of two contemporary sculptures to its permanent collection. Artist James Turrell has been commissioned to create an original “Skyspace,” a ­site-specific work designed for the museum that will be partially set into a hillside. The sculpture will be given a title upon its completion, which is scheduled for the end of this year.

Crystal Bridges also acquired a sculpture by Mark di Suvero, Lowell’s Ocean, 2005–8, made of welded steel I-beams with a spiral in the middle cut from a single plate of steel. The sculpture stands more than 20 feet tall and weighs more than 26,000 pounds.

Other acquisitions the Crystal Bridges has announced over the past year and a half include John Singer Sargent’s portrait Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife, 1885, which was sold at Sotheby’s in New York in May 2004 for $8.8million (estimate: $5million/7million); Stuart Davis’s Still Life with Flowers, 1930, which was sold at Christie’s in New York in December 2005 for $3.2million (estimate: $2million/3million); George Wesley Bellows’s The Studio, 1919, which was sold by Sotheby’s in December 2004 for $2.5million (estimate: $1.5million/3million); Robert Henri’s large portrait Jessica Penn in Black with White Plumes, 1908, which was sold by Christie’s in New York in May 2005 for $3.6million (estimate: $1million/1.5million); Winslow Homer’s 1878 watercolor and pencil on paper, Spring, which was sold at Sotheby’s in December 2004 for $2million (estimate: $1.5mil­lion/2.5million); Dennis Miller Bunker’s Portrait of Anne Page, 1887, which sold at Sotheby’s in December 2004 for $3.6million (estimate: $1million/1.5 million) and is currently on loan to the Seattle Art Museum; and Lyonel Feininger’s Schlossgasse, 1915, which last appeared at auction in a sale of German and Austrian art at Christie’s in London in October 1997 and sold at the time for £463,500 ($749,750) against an estimate of £450,000/650,000.

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