Fort Worth, Texas
Alice Walton purchased her first artwork when she was just 10 years old—a reproduction of Picasso’s Blue Nude from her father’s five-and-dime store for $2. Walton’s father, Sam, went on to found Walmart, and as Alice’s love for art grew, so did her budget. During a Sotheby’s auction in 2004, Walton purchased over $20 million worth of art by phone in a single day, all while sitting on a three-year-old gelding and preparing to compete in the first qualifying round of the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.
In 2005, she dropped $35 million on Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits (1849) from the New York Public Library, a purchase steeped in controversy. That work is now in the collection of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which Walton founded. She has been accused of using her immense wealth to mine struggling institutions for significant works to fill her museum’s walls. Kriston Capps wrote in the Guardian that “Walton collects art with the same disregard for fair practices and competition that Walmart shows in the retail sector.” Regardless, Crystal Bridges, which opened its doors in 2011, is an undoubtedly philanthropic endeavor. Situated in the middle of Arkansas, it provides free access to the arts for a sizable population that is underserved by the art world. Walton has largely dismissed criticism directed at her. “I haven’t ever heard of anything that Walmart hasn’t been blamed for,” she told the New Yorker in 2011. She also founded Art Bridges in 2017, a nonprofit foundation that supports exhibitions of American art at institutions across the United States. In 2019, Walton reportedly bought a record-breaking $88.8 million Robert Rauschenberg silkscreen work from 1964 at Christie’s New York.