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Editor’s Note: Individual Perspectives

Nancy Rubins’ gravity-defying sculpture "Big Edge" welcomes guests in the driveway of CityCenter.

Wanderings: An Insider’s Guide

Known for its dining, nightlife and over-the-top attractions, this neon city in the desert is also a glowing oasis for fine art

Written by JoAnna Haugen  
Photography by Sam Morris, Las Vegas News Bureau  

Sam Morris, Las Vegas News Bureau

Other Contributions

Wanderings: An Insider’s Guide
August | September 2016


When most people think of reasons to visit Las Vegas, fine art is not normally one of them. But stand in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard on the famous 4-mile stretch known as the Strip and look around: Gravity-defying design is at the architectural root of almost every casino, and millions of dollars of fine art is hidden in plain view. While finding luxe accommodations, taking risks at the poker table or enjoying delightful dishes is par for the course in the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” visitors just need to know where to look to fully embrace the city’s artistic side.

Located mid-Strip, the multibuilding CityCenter was designed by what Architect Magazine coined “a Rat Pack of star architects” — only discovered after a worldwide search and sorting through 100 potential design professionals. Ultimately, a team consisting of seven architects, three architects of record, 90 interior designers and hundreds of consultants brought the 67-acre complex to life. 

Though the buildings themselves are impressive, one can also wander through their rooms and halls to discover myriad public art pieces by world-famous artists. HOTO, by Tatsuo Miyajima, is an 18-foot-tall mirrored pagoda located at The Shops at Crystals. The installation includes 3,287 LED numerical displays with numbers flashing at various speeds to represent the cycle of life. Another monumental installation is Maya Lin’s Silver River, a 3,700-pound piece made of reclaimed silver, which hangs over ARIA’s front desk. And the 75-foot kaleidoscopic Big Edge, made from a salvaged watercraft by Nancy Rubins, greets guests in Vdara’s main driveway. 

For those interested in buying art, CityCenter is also home to Gallery Row — four galleries with an impressive “who’s who” of contemporary artists. Browse colorful glasswork by Dale Chihuly at The Gallery, or paintings, mixed-media creations and sculptures at Elena Bulatova Fine Art. Rodney Lough Jr.’s Wilderness Collections Gallery features striking nature photography, while The Art of Richard MacDonald showcases a collection of sculptures inspired by Cirque du Soleil performers; a second gallery of his work is located in the “O” Theatre Gallery in the Bellagio.

In addition to Gallery Row, art hunters on the Strip may want to stop by one of Peter Lik’s galleries to peruse his award-winning photography. His work is carried in The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay and The Venetian. The Forum Shops is also home to the Martin Lawrence Gallery, where guests can view work by such famed artists as Andy Warhol and Salvador Dalí.

Just north of CityCenter is the aforementioned Bellagio, home to Fiori di Como, one of Chihuly’s most popular pieces. The $10 million work of art consists of 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers and weighs approximately 40,000 pounds. While here, check out the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, which houses a new, narrowly focused exhibit — either on a particular artist or a specific theme — every eight months or so. Past exhibits have included work by painter Pablo Picasso and photographer Yousuf Karsh, among others. Book a room and call it a night or visit the nearby Delano, which offers mid-century furniture and a clean, modern aesthetic for the design enthusiast.

Off the Strip, the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art flies under the radar for most people but keeps a diverse, rotating selection of work on display, including its annual International Contemporary Masters exhibit, which highlights work from dozens of artists from around the world. In addition to 20,000 square feet of exhibit space, the nonprofit museum offers adult art classes, art authentication assistance and other ancillary services for art aficionados and collectors. At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, one museum and six galleries also host a variety of artists — those affiliated with the university and beyond.

A short drive from the university is the Neon Museum and Boneyard, which offers a unique artistic twist related to the city’s history. Though not a traditional art gallery, it’s an absolute must for anyone interested in historical artifacts. Las Vegas has long been a city illuminated in neon, and this is where retired signs are laid to rest. A guided tour offers insight into the artistic design, history and lore behind some of the city’s most famous signs, including those belonging to Caesars Palace, the Golden Nugget and the old Stardust Hotel, which is now closed. Tours are available during the day and at night, though reservations are strongly recommended as the Neon Museum has become increasingly popular over the last few years.

Also located in the downtown area are a few structures worthy of an architectural nod. Arguably the most unusual building is the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which was designed in a deconstructivism style by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. The unusual four-story building serves as a clinic, research center and headquarters for the Keep Memory Alive foundation, though Gehry went to great lengths to develop an atmosphere that didn’t feel like a medical building.

Just down the street is The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which evokes features of the desert landscape and echoes design elements found at the iconic Hoover Dam. Hop on a free, docent-led tour to fully appreciate the artistic detail tucked into the corners of this $470 million complex. Also check out the old U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, which opened in 1933 and today houses the Mob Museum. The museum’s exhibits are a fascinating peek into the city’s controversial mobster past, but don’t forget to admire the building itself, listed on the Nevada and National Register of Historic Places.

Of course, a trip to Las Vegas wouldn’t be complete with a few only-in-Vegas discoveries. About 10 miles south of Las Vegas, Ugo Rondinone’s much-admired public artwork, Seven Magic Mountains, was installed in May and will be exhibited for two years. Presented by New York’s Art Production Fund and Reno’s Nevada Museum of Art, the installation was five years in the making and cost more than $3 million. It consists of seven colossal stone forms in various day-glo colors.

Las Vegas is often celebrated for its unbeatable nightlife, world-class restaurants and colorfully themed hotels, yet those willing to view this city from a different perspective will walk away with a new appreciation for the fine art and architecture found throughout.


If YOU GO... 


GALLERIES

The Art of Richard MacDonald 
3720 S. Las Vegas Blvd. and | 3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 702.730.7990 | theartofrichardmacdonald.com

Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 702.693.7871  | bellagio.com/en/entertainment/gallery-of-fine-art.html

Elena Bulatova Fine Art
3720 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | Ste. 271 760.600.0417 | elenabulatovafineart.com

The Gallery
3720 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | Ste. 275 702.590.8741 | www2.citycenter.com

Martin Lawrence Gallery
3500 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 702.991.5990 | martinlawrence.com

“O” Theatre Gallery
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 888.488.7111 | bellagio.com

Peter Lik Galleries
3377 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 702.309.8777 | lik.com/galleries.html

Wilderness Collections Gallery
3720 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 877.848.3430 | rodneyloughjr.com

ATTRACTIONS

CityCenter
3780 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | www2.citycenter.com 

The Forum Shops
3500 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 317.636.1600; simon.com/mall/ | the-forum-shops-at-caesars-palace

The Shops at Crystals
3720 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 702.590.9299 | simon.com/mall/the-shops-at-crystals

Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
888 W. Bonneville Ave. | 702.483.6000 | keepmemoryalive.org

Mob Museum
300 Stewart Ave. | 702.229.2734 | themobmuseum.org

Neon Museum and Boneyard
770 N. Las Vegas Blvd. | 702.387.6366 | neonmuseum.org

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts
361 Symphony Park Ave. | 702.749.2012 | thesmithcenter.com

Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Art
450 Fremont St. | Ste. 270 | 702.382.2926 | snmfa.com

UNLV Museums and Galleries
4505 S. Maryland Parkway | 702.895.3011 | unlv.edu/maps/museums-galleries

LODGING

Mandalay Bay
3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 877.632.7700 | mandalaybay.com

The Venetian
3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 866.659.9643 | venetian.com

Vdara Hotel and Spa
2600 W. Harmon Ave. | 866.745.7767 | vdara.com

Caesars Palace
3570 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 866.227.5938 | caesars.com

ARIA Resort and Casino
3730 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 866.359.7757 | aria.com

Bellagio
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 888.987.6667 | bellagio.com

Golden Nugget
129 E. Fremont St. | 702.385.7111 | goldennugget.com/lasvegas

Delano
3940 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 877.632.5400 | delanolasvegas.com 

Map: Daphne Gilliam

Elena Bulatova Fine Art is a kaleidoscope of mixed media and sculpture.

Fifteen illuminated frozen columns by WET are among the eye-catching pieces at The Shops at Crystals.

The "Shards of Color" installation, by James Turrell, plays on geometric shapes, angles and shifting colors.

"Typewriter Eraser, Scale X" by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen is more than 19 feet long.

"Reclining Connected Forms" by Henry Moore is made of Roman travertine marble.

Frank Stella's luminous "Damascus Gate Variation" hangs over Vdara's reception desk.

Guests can walk among the 50 columns of swirling water that make up "Halo" at the Crystals.

Dale Chihuly's "Fiori di Como" covers 2,100 square feet of the Bellagio's lobby ceiling.

"Day for Night, Night for Day" by Peter Wegner was inspired by the sun and the moon and can be found in Vdara.

The Elena Bulatova Fine Art gallery features contemporary art with a focus on mixed media paintings and sculptures.

The unique Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health building has 199 windows, none of which are alike, and was designed by Frank Gehry.

The Yucca Motel sign, salvaged by the Neon Museum when the building was demolished in 2010, was designed by YES CO to resemble the popular Southwest plant by the same name. Photo: courtesy of the Neon Museum