Wide arching double rainbows perfectly framed the stage Oct. 5 at the first event held on the green of the Momentary, a 63,000-square foot-contemporary art and performance space that will open Feb. 22, 2020, in Bentonville. The Momentary is another Walton family project, broadening the mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
“I’m so excited to be here,” exclaimed artist Nick Cave, seated in a plush black lounge chair next to Lauren Haynes, curator of contemporary and visual art at the museum. “I’ve been inside the building and it’s amazing. It’s going to look great there.” Cave’s multimedia installation “Until,” a massive installation that addresses the epidemic of police shootings of blacks, will be one of two opening exhibitions in the Momentary, a former Kraft cheese products factory. “Until” debuted at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art‚ known as Mass MoCA, in Adams, Mass., in 2016. The other opening show will be “State of the Art II,” introducing work by contemporary American artists.
Lieven Bertels, the Belgian musicologist and European festival organizer who came to Bentonville to head the Momentary in 2017, told us on a phone call following the event that the museum “needs to be very accessible, so everybody should feel welcome … we’re not putting art on a pedestal.”
“So it will feel like an everyday living room for contemporary performing arts, visual arts and culinary discoveries that’s very important to us, and the fact that we’re doing it in an old Kraft Foods cheese plant helps with creating a cool vibe in a really cool and wonderful industrial space. We want to make sure that people come and hang out there,” Bertel said.
Hanging out seemed to be nearly as central to the conversation as any discussion of the art itself at Saturday’s event. Many attendees — some 3,500 by the museum’s estimation — parked at the nearby 8th Street Market, where Markham & Fitz chocolate, Bike Rack Brewery and other businesses were open.
Entertainment at the event included “For You,” a community-led interactive performance piece that featured groups of around 20 people following random orders, such as standing on one leg while chanting nonsensical phrases like “pick an apple, put it in a basket.” The Grammy-nominated Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans performed a couple of sets.
There were also things to buy, or as in the case of the Barter Boat, a traveling trading post, to swap for. This reporter traded her business card and a retro yellow-and-red ink pen for a keychain from Baltimore. Refreshments included a Momentary-branded Ozark Lager from Ozark Beer Co. ($5) and Topo Chico (free).
Those who signed up as new members of The Momentary ($75 a year or $6.50 a month) were granted tours of the space, which will include open studios for resident artists, a restaurant, concerts and a rooftop bar.