First-edition copy of U.S. Constitution headed to Crystal Bridges in Bentonville

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 7,042 views 

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Photo credit: Michael Barera.

A first-edition copy of the U.S. Constitution sold at a Sotheby’s auction Thursday (Nov. 18) for $43.2 million — more than double its $20 million high estimate and world auction record for any book, manuscript, historical document, or printed text — and the new owner intends to lend the piece to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

Multiple media outlets reported Friday that Ken Griffin, CEO of hedge fund Citadel, won a bidding war for the first-edition copy of the document. A group of more than 17,000 crypto enthusiasts had crowdfunded more than $40 million via social media.

“The U.S. Constitution is a sacred document that enshrines the rights of every American and all those who aspire to be,” Griffin said in a statement issued by Sotheby’s and reported by The Wall Street Journal. “That is why I intend to ensure that this copy of our Constitution will be available for all Americans and visitors to view and appreciate in our museums and other public spaces.

“I am pleased that Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, which always offers free admission, will be the first venue to display our country’s foundational document.”

Olivia Walton, board chairperson at Crystal Bridges, said the museum is aiming to have the document on display by the second half of 2022.

“We are honored to exhibit one of the most important documents in our nation’s history from our location in the Heartland of America,” Walton said in a statement. “We welcome our neighbors and diverse visitors from across the country and around the world to see the US Constitution alongside our art collection that focuses on telling the story of the history of America.”

Founded by Walmart heir Alice Walton, Crystal Bridges celebrated its 10th anniversary on Nov. 11 this year. General admission has always been free, sponsored by Walmart. There is no cost to view the permanent collection galleries. There may occasionally be an admission fee to view special, temporary exhibitions.

Since opening in 2011, Crystal Bridges has welcomed more than five million people and is in the early stages of an expansion to add 100,000 square feet to the 200,000 museum. The work is expected to be completed in 2024.

Olivia Walton, appointed recently to succeed Alice Walton as board chairperson, is married to Tom Walton, a grandson of Sam and Helen Walton.