Opened in 2011 with funding from the Walton family of Walmart fame, this repository of all-American art spans the entire range of the country's history, from the colonial era to the present. In the chronologically arranged galleries of the permanent collection, famous portraits of the Founding Fathers give way to 19th-century paintings depicting soon-to-be-tamed wilderness, which give way in turn to bold experiments by modern and contemporary artists. Highlights include Asher Brown Durand's apotheosis of the Hudson River School of landscape paintings, 1849's Kindred Spirits; Thomas Eakins's shadowy 1874 portrait of an anatomy professor in his office; Andy Warhol's idolatrous silkscreen tribute to Dolly Parton; and Louise Bourgeois' Maman, a 30-foot-tall bronze spider outside the entrance. The hands-down crowd favorite is Norman Rockwell's monumental and patriotic 1943 illustration of Rosie the Riveter—Crystal Bridges' answer to the Mona Lisa.
The grounds and architecture are also noteworthy. Wander around outside and you'll find peaceful hiking trails through the museum's wooded location on 120 acres in a natural ravine. A rooted-to-the-landscape aesthetic informs the architectural design by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. Built of wood and concrete, the buildings feature elongated halls with rounded, copper-clad roofs recalling the rolling hills of the surrounding Ozarks. A house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—fully relocated from its original spot in New Jersey—further underlines the commitment to combining art and nature.