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Betting on art: A Las Vegas vacation for the gallery-going set

BETTING ON ART

In its ongoing push to diversify tourism beyond the blackjack table, Las Vegas has set its sights on becoming a world-class art destination. Andrew Sardone gallery hops through the Nevada desert


Even the most cynical travellers (present!) can't help giving in to Las Vegas's bedazzled bacchanal of a weekend getaway. But beyond the casino floors with their Big Bang Theory-themed slots, and the parade of boozed-up Big Gulp-toting revellers that flood the strip each evening, the city offers a growing lineup of arts attractions to help nurse your decadence hangover. Blame Vegas's growing creative class – especially the army of digital disruptors and style entrepreneurs that populate downtown, far removed from the big, themed hotels – for the evolution of visually inspiring experiences that appeal as much to locals as to visitors.


GIANFRANCO GORGONI/ART PRODUCTION FUND AND THE NEVADA MUSEUM OF ART

BLOCK PARTY

In May, Swiss-born artist Ugo Rondinone unveiled his instantly Instagram-famous sculpture, Seven Magic Mountains, in the Ivanpah Valley about a half-hour drive outside of Las Vegas. A collaboration between Art Production Fund, the Nevada Museum of Art and sponsor MGM Resorts, the land-art installation features stacks of limestone blocks that reference the rocky surroundings, while acknowledging their man-made nature through neon colourations. It's sure to compete with the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign for favourite local photo op for the next two years.

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For more information, visit www.sevenmagicmountains.com.


PAUL T. STOCUM

ROGUE GALLERY

One of the strip's most legendary hotels is the Bellagio, of Ocean's Eleven fame. While its fountain show still packs the sidewalks out front each evening, the complex's Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art inside offers a more highbrow creative experience. After mounting an exhibition of the work of Canadian photography legend Yousuf Karsh earlier this year, the gallery is now presenting Town and Country: From Degas to Picasso. On until February 2017, the show organized with the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, looks at urban and rural scenes depicted in both European and American painting. Adult admission is $17 (U.S.).

For more information, visit www.bellagio.com.


EMILY WILSON

SHIP SHAPE

The shipping container has become the go-to vessel for architects exploring adaptability in small spaces, and in Vegas 43 of the cubes have been put to use as Downtown Container Park. Home to 38 independent businesses, from brunch spots to a shotgun wedding chapel, the open-air plaza (with a slide structure as its centrepiece) anchors a $350-million (U.S.) revitalization of the area. In homage to Burning Man, the annual art gathering in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, a 55-foot-tall praying mantis sculpture guards the entrance to the complex, and shoots flames from its antennae.

For more information, visit www.downtownproject.com.

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COLOUR YOUR WORLD

Artist James Turrell's most legendary covert installation might be the Roden Crater, located 400 kilometres southeast of the city, outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. But Turrell's Akhob space in Vegas is, perhaps, a bigger surprise since its hiding place is the attic of the strip's The Shops at Crystals city-centre shopping mall. Commissioned by Louis Vuitton and occupying a by-appointment-only gallery above the luxury French house's flagship store, the permanent work places visitors in the centre of an oscillating field of colourful light that disrupts your sense of space and colour. Recreate Drake's Hotline Bling at your leisure.

To schedule an appointment, call 1-702-739-8520. For more information, visit www.louisvuitton.com.


OUTDOOR ACTIVITY

Activating outdoor spaces with public parks and sidewalk restaurants (hello, Shake Shack) is the latest way Las Vegas's larger hotels are expanding their footprint onto the strip's streetscape. If you want to really experience local flora, however, head further out to the family-focused Springs Preserve. The almost 200- acre botanical garden includes a juried exhibition space. Outside, the landscape replicates the natural desert environment that dominated the area before the high rollers touched down.

For more information, visit www.springspreserve.org.

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