On 11-11-11: Bacigalupi and his son, Guston, on opening day in Bentonville.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art President Don Bacigalupi, whose vision widened the contemporary collection of the Bentonville museum, has been chosen by “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas to be the founding director of  the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, slated to open in 2018  in Chicago. Bacigalupi will leave Crystal Bridges Jan. 14.

Taking on the Lucas won’t be an easy job; the museum is already controversial, thank to its design and proposed location, and is the subject of a lawsuit over its siting in a park.


Bacigalupi, who was hired as executive director and became president last year, will remain on the board of directors. The museum announced Bacigalupi’s plans this morning. From the news release:



“Don’s achievements at Crystal Bridges have been numerous, and many of our successes are attributable to his guidance leading up to the opening of the museum and continuing into our highly successful next three years,” said Crystal Bridges Founder and Board Chair Alice Walton. “He came on board when the museum was in its early stages, guiding our direction through the building phase and helping to shape the development and exhibition of our art collection. His expertise in overseeing the launch of new institutions makes him an ideal leader for the Lucas Museum, and we’ll be applauding his accomplishments. We are pleased that he will retain his connection to Crystal Bridges as a member of our board.”

“Leading Crystal Bridges through its construction, opening and early years has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and honor,” said Bacigalupi. “I am so proud to have worked with such an incredibly passionate and capable team—of staff, board, and volunteers—to achieve such extraordinary successes. I often say that we’ve made a good start at Crystal Bridges, and I look forward to the great momentum continuing. I’ll be a lifelong friend and fan.”

Now the question is, who will be Alice Walton’s lead advisor in purchasing contemporary art for the museum? Bacigalupi has surely had a significant influence on Walton’s broadening of the collection, once planned to go no further than the 1950s. Museum Director Rod Bigelow has a background in finance and management, not art. Perhaps Curator Chad Alligood, who assisted Bacigalupi in putting together the “State of the Art” exhibition now on display and who came to the museum from the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., will fill Bacigalupi’s shoes. Or perhaps Mindy Besaw, who it was announced earlier this year will join the museum in January as curator; she is now curator at the Whitney Western Art Museum in Cody, Wyo. Or Manuela Well-Off-Man, who came to the museum in 2009 from the Montana Museum of Art & Culture and who holds a doctorate in art history from Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany. Or none of the above.