March 2019

The BIG Show

Las Vegas Resorts’ Fine Art on Display for All to See

The Travellers Have Arrived, a sculpture by the Australian based couple Gillie and Marc at The Cosmopolitan .

By Aleza Freeman

A sculpture inspired by the famous pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph is transforming one Las Vegas resort into a modern-day Bethlehem. Nearly 8 feet tall and 600 pounds, The Travelers Have Arrived, by Australian-based couple Gillie and Marc, originally stood near the waves of Bondi Beach before heading originally to New York City.

The depiction of a whimsical rabbit and dog riding on the back of a donkey is now on display across from the race and sports book at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

“The sculpture reminds us that we’re just like everyone else, we’re never alone in our travels, whether that takes us across the world or across town for a coffee,” explain the artists. “Welcoming other travelers from all across the world to one of the top tourist destinations, [it will] become a welcoming and comforting sight to all who are seeking comfort and companionship while away from their home.”

Meanwhile, as part of $690 million in property-wide renovations, the Palms Casino Resort recently welcomed the city’s first permanent work by elusive street artist Banksy. The 88 ¼-inch by 74-inch spray painted depiction of two heavily armed police officers with neon yellow smiley faces, Smiley Coppers Panel I, hides in plain sight inside the resort’s new restaurant, Greene St. Kitchen.

“You can spend all day in there and think you catch everything and the next day you find something new,” says Palms Creative Director Tal Cooperman of the piece.

These are just two world-famous art pieces tourists and locals may stumble across while patronizing our city’s casino-resorts.

While Las Vegas is one of the country’s 30 largest metropolitan cities, we’re the only one without an independent, stand-alone, accredited art institution. Fortunately, properties like the Cosmopolitan, Palms, and those in the MGM Resorts International portfolio are cultivating a flourishing art scene for tourists and locals alike.

When the Nevada Museum of Art finally opens its Las Vegas branch in 2024, it will enhance existing galleries throughout the city and downtown as well as the thousands of public art pieces dotting our destination resorts.

“We are stronger when our efforts are unified,” notes Amanda Horn, senior vice president of communications for the Nevada Museum of Art. “Without these foundational efforts, building this institution would not be possible. We support these valuable leaders of our community.”

Japanese artist Kisho Mwkaiyama is shown here while he was part of the MGM Resorts’ artist-in-residence program at Mandalay Bay

MGM Resorts International

Because of the massive size of our resorts and the volume of people passing through them, Las Vegas has a unique opportunity to display corporate art collections, according to Tarissa Tiberti, executive director for MGM Resorts Art & Culture.

“We’re not putting it behind closed doors,” said Tiberti, who oversees 800-plus works of modern and contemporary art across MGM’s global destinations, which include Aria Resort & Casino, Park MGM, Bellagio Resort & Casino, and Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. “When you walk into the Bellagio and you see the Dale Chihuly ceiling, for instance—somebody who’s checking into the hotel is going to see that, someone who is going to a restaurant is going to see that, someone who is just walking through for any given reason…it’s really out there for the public to view.”

Art has long been central to the MGM Resorts International mission. The company has an extensive and growing collection throughout its properties, with works by historic and contemporary masters, including Nick Cave, Helen Frankenthaler, Isa Genzken, David Hockney, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol.

The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art opened with the property and recently expanded to include space for an artist-in-residence program. The company often acquires new art pieces and collaborates with artists to create site-specific installations, such as the expansive tree branch by Brazilian artist Henrique Oliveria that appears to be breaking through the Park MGM lobby ceiling.

“We’re offering these artists an opportunity to work for a huge audience,” Tiberti says. “There’s a lot of visitors coming here a year so we’re really giving them an open stage.”

The Aria Fine Art collection was the first major permanent collection of art in Las Vegas to be integrated into a public space. It is now one of the world’s largest and most ambitious corporate art collections, with works by renowned artists such as Maya Lin, Claes Oldenburg, and Coosje van Bruggen.

“If you look at when CityCenter (now the Aria campus) opened…that was very important for the mission of that collection, to make sure that it was something you could just come upon as if you were walking through a museum or a city,” says Tiberti. “We were trying to provide that experience all in one location and by one corporation.”

In recent years, MGM Resorts International has increased its focus on established and emerging Japanese artists. Earlier this year, the company unveiled Japanese artist Kisho Mwkaiyama’s Vendarta 100: Six Elements and the Seasons to the public at Mandalay Bay which was created as part of the artist-in-residence program.

Next door at the connecting Delano Las Vegas, Yokoso Las Vegas, a six-work installation by internationally recognized Japanese artist Sush Machida, is on display through June.

“We give [visitors] an opportunity to see art work from far stretches of the world without having to make a trip out here specifically for that,” says Tiberti. “We also try to present things as adjustable for anyone, whether you’re an art novice or you’re completely educated about art.”

Smiley Coppers Panel I by Banksy hanging inside the new Palms Resort restaurant, Greene St. Kitchen. Photo by Clint Jenkins

Palms Casino Resort

When the Palms unveiled its first phase of renovations last year, it was clear that art was an important piece of the puzzle. The resort’s curated collection of street, modern, and blue-chip art touches every corner of the property, from the casino floor to the hotel rooms.

The collection includes original pieces by globally celebrated artists Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol, on loan from the personal art collections of Station Casinos owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. These are joined by newly commissioned creations from leading contemporary artists such as Adam Parker Smith, Felipe Pantone, James Jean, and Timothy Curtis.

One of the most dramatic pieces can be found in the resort’s lobby bar. The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded) by Hirst consists of a 13-foot-long tiger shark divided into three parts, each of the 3 sections suspended in a formaldehyde solution within a steel tank measuring over two meters in height.

High atop the resort’s Ivory Tower, at the new Apex Social Club (formerly Ghostbar), are four of artist Dustin Yellin’s 3,000-pound Psychogeographies. The humanoid sculptures are comprised of collages cut from magazines and books, laid down on glass, and fused together with resin to create 3D paintings.

The Banksy piece debuted in March along with an extensive collection of street art, celebrating some of the most prolific names in the graffiti art community, such as Kenny Scharf, Cleon Peterson, VHILS, Pose, Martha Cooper, DabsMyla, and Slick.

“Guests are brought on a visual journey from the minute they walk in the door and will find special touches at every corner, from our gaming felts down to the mini-bar,” says Jon Gray, general manager of Palms. “We have curated a collection that is bold, relevant to today’s traveler, and most of all a truly interactive experience.”

Georges Rousse’s first-ever permanant public art installation inside the Starbucks at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has been placing interactive and accessible art pieces throughout the resort since it opened in 2010. The intent is to create a dynamic art experience that transforms the property into an exhibit.

“No payment necessary and no velvet ropes,” says the property’s chief marketing officer, Tom Evans. “From the restaurants to the parking garages, guests are a part of an approachable art experience…Art is tucked in corners, hidden in hallways, and invites guests to wander and find a new piece each time they are here.”

Among the resort’s unique pieces is the rotating art feature with a variety of renowned world artists, including Yoko Ono, TJ Wilcox, Jennifer Steinkamp, Sam Taylor Wood, Marilyn Minter, and Jose Alvarez, displayed on eight, ever-changing digital lobby columns.

Another is Georges Rousse’s installation at Starbucks, his first-ever permanent public art installation, unique because of how it is incorporated into the architecture of the store.

“From most vantage points, the installation looks chaotic, but when standing at the perfect angle in the front of the store, the pieces come together to create one unified work,” said Evans.

With the resort’s longtime commitment to art, Evans believes guests are increasingly arriving with an expectation of seeing new and exciting art pieces.

“We are known for constantly reinventing ourselves and that is especially true of our ever-changing lineup of art,” says Evans. “Guests expect the unexpected at every turn.”

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