In the Vegas desert, you’ll find Seven Magic Mountains,” created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. (Photo: Alamy)
The Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian is long closed, as is the Las Vegas Art Museum. Yet, despite the dearth of formal institutions and the city’s reputation as a cultural wasteland, the public art scene in Las Vegas is quietly booming.
Casinos up and down The Strip have embraced the idea of incorporating art into the visitor experience, unveiling Burning Man-style sculptures and experiential installations. Once your eyes adjust to the flashing marquees and casino dimness, art is infiltrating a space often stereotyped as all cleavage and slot machines. Put down that yard-long piña colada and get ready for an Instagram-worthy art crawl of Las Vegas.
Our tour actually begins outside the city with a polarizing piece set in the open desert. Created by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone, “Seven Magic Mountains” is comprised of seven pillars of locally sourced boulders steeped in neon hues and set just off the I-15 near Jean Dry Lake Bed. Take a quick detour to see the totems up close and absorb their technicolor contrast to the local environment.
Dancing Nudes and River Renderings
Now set your GPS for The Strip and visit one of Las Vegas’ newest attractions: the Park. Developed in 2016, this bluntly named promenade features desert plantings, a water wall and a handful of restaurants. Resist the pull of Shake Shack and make your way to the centerpiece of the glorified pathway: artist Marco Cochrane’s 40-foot-tall steel and wire mesh sculpture of a nude woman in motion titled “Bliss Dance.” While she’s arresting at any time of day, our lady of the Strip (who actually debuted at Burning Man) is even more impressive at night, when she’s lit by nearly 3,000 LEDs.
Next stop: Aria, where public art is infused throughout the property courtesy of the Aria Fine Art Collection. As you explore, keep an eye out for works from Maya Lin (“Silver River,” a rendering of the Colorado River behind the lobby front desk), Jenny Holzer (“Vegas,” a 250-foot installation of LED wisdom at north valet) and Nancy Rubbins (“Big Edge,” a spiky bloom of boats suspended over the roadway on Harmon Circle).
Art Dispenser? Yes, Please
Just next door, at the Cosmopolitan even the garage has been transformed into a gallery with murals from a different artist on each level.
Upstairs, art is spread throughout the property, from the Art-o-Mat machines, which dispense miniature original pieces for $5 apiece, to George Rousse’s first-ever public art installation. The French artist’s single-perspective works appear scattered blocks of color until viewed from the right angle when they suddenly make stunning visual sense.
Experiential Art in Louis Vuitton
You’ll have to book an appointment to check out our next piece, a secret work of light and space hidden inside the Louis Vuitton store at Crystals. If a designer boutique known for its luggage isn’t the first place you’d expect to find experiential art, set your skepticism aside and proceed to be awed by James Turrell’s mind-altering “Akhob.” We promise you won’t regret it.
It’s time to bid the Boulevard goodbye and head for north. First stop: Symphony Park, where local artist Tim Bavington’s “Pipe Dream” is more than a cheery stretch of fence. It’s actually a visual representation of composer Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” with each colored pipe representing a different note.
Instagram Your “Love”
Keep crawling to the Venetian, which recently jumped on the public art bandwagon with Laura Kimpton’s “Love,” spelled out in 12-foot-high red steel letters and practically begging for a spot on your Instagram feed. More in the mood for something shiny?
Down the street at the Wynn, “Popeye,” complete with bulging bicep and spinach can, stands guard over the entrance to the theater. Glistening in mirror-polished steel, this Jeff Koons’ sculpture is a playful piece of Americana with a contemporary edge and a modern price tag: $28 million. Look, but maybe don’t touch, okay?
Remember to Look Up
Finally steer yourself to Fremont East a few blocks away and just look up. Downtown Las Vegas has been transformed into an outdoor art gallery thanks to the annual Life Is Beautiful Festival, which commissions large-scale works on city walls from a roster of international street artists.
Recent lineups include art by Shepard Fairey and Felipe Pantone, and past festivals have brought painters like Zio Ziegler and 1010 to splash their talents all over local buildings. Wander, admire, photograph, repeat. What better place to conclude a crawl of art than a neighborhood covered in it?