Thursday, April 24, 2008

Arting up Las Vegas

When Bugsy Malone opened the first casino in Las Vegas, he would have had no idea. He would have laughed at the thought of it as a Disneyesque family destination, and wept to see hoards of kids with their moms and dads coming out of M&M’s World and racing over to watch the Fountains of Bellagio do their thing. Now there are signs that Vegas is moving market again, and this time the signs aren’t neon, they’re art.

This is not the first attempt. The Venetian checked a few of the right boxes back in 2001 by partnering with a famous art museum brand. We’ve signed the Guggenheim. Check. Another one couldn’t do any harm? We’ve got the Hermitage. Perfect. Check. Employ a starchitect. Rem Koolhaas is on the job. Check. The Venetian’s project was ambitious, but while the collection shows continue, the temporary exhibition space lasted just over a year. I remember hearing that the incredible 'Age of the Motorcycle' exhibition included a bike by New Zealand inventor John Britten. And now the Hermitage has also bitten the dust.

But don't give up art-lovers, help is at hand. Vegas is taking art to the streets. This time, MGM Mirage is the lead husky. As the biggest resort corporation in town, they’re putting up $40 million to commission large-scale public sculptures. The line-up of artists and the scale they’ll work at is impressive. Maya Lin is creating a 130-foot cast silver representation of the Colorado River in the foyer of the MGM Mirage. Lin created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and knows as much about the power of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy as anyone. She recently said in the The New York Times, “It’s kind of nice to come across art where you least expect it sometimes.” Las Vegas continues to be a surprise.