04 Aug Wanderings: An Insider's Guide
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…
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
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
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
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
3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 877.632.7700 | mandalaybay.com
3355 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 866.659.9643 | venetian.com
Vdara Hotel and Spa
2600 W. Harmon Ave. | 866.745.7767 | vdara.com
3570 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 866.227.5938 | caesars.com
ARIA Resort and Casino
3730 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 866.359.7757 | aria.com
3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 888.987.6667 | bellagio.com
129 E. Fremont St. | 702.385.7111 | goldennugget.com/lasvegas
3940 S. Las Vegas Blvd. | 877.632.5400 | delanolasvegas.com