There is no lack of vision and creative spirit in a city that loves to reinvent itself as frequently and ambitiously as Las Vegas. Behind the flickering neon signs and the imposing hotel facades hide a number of timeless masterpieces, art galleries, cultural addresses and historic remnants that paint a very different picture of Nevada’s gambling paradise.
The famed Las Vegas Resort & Casino is much more artistically-inclined than its scenic singing fountains let on, as the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art reveals. Regular host of internationally acclaimed artworks and exhibitions, Bellagio has welcomed exhibitions from Claude Monet: Impressions of Light to American Modernism and Picasso Ceramics. The Spanish legend’s ceramics also decorate the acclaimed Picasso restaurant inside the hotel, amongst a stunning collection of original paintings that, along with Picasso’s two-Michelin-star cuisine compose a unique dining experience for the grand master’s fans.
3600 Las Vegas Blvd South, 888 9876667.
Like its neighboring Bellagio, the City Center looks like typical Vegas: an awe-inspiring, spare-no-expense urban metropolis of hotels and casinos, where, at first glance, art plays no part. Yet, dispersed among the state-of-the-art nightclubs, the trendy lounges and the intimate spas is a surprising gallery, where you will bump into sculptures like Henry Moore’s Reclining Connected Forms and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, Jack Goldstein’s postmodern Untitled (Volcano) canvas, or conceptual artist Jenny Holzer’s Vegas, in which thought-provoking international proverbs scroll across a LED wall. From the aesthetically amusing to the intriguingly intellectual, the City Center is truly big on cultural surprises.
3780 Las Vegas Boulevard South, 866 7227171.
Filling a noticeable gap in high-quality performing arts events in the region, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts has played a major part in the city’s cultural calendar since March 2012. Part of the brand new Symphony Park’s evolving landscape, it is instantly recognizable by its grandiose Art Deco facade, featuring a 17-story carillon tower with 47 bells that make the center’s presence conspicuous from a distance. Home of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre, it welcomes everything from Broadway best-sellers to the big ladies of international jazz.
361 Symphony Park Avenue, + (1) 702 7492000.
In the busy 18b Las Vegas Arts District downtown (the 18b standing for the total of 18 blocks packed with independent art galleries, restaurants, and bars), breathing in its own Anti-Strip atmosphere, lies The Arts Factory. A 50-year old commercial warehouse that, since 1997, has been housing antique shops, artist studios, and galleries, it introduces to the unsuspecting Vegas visitor an array of different media and styles. Music concerts, poetry readings, and theatrical ventures complete the Factory’s busy schedule, peaking on the celebrated First Friday of every month when everything from dance music to street vendors satisfy all senses in an all-inclusive, vibrant and intoxicating street party. Exhibitions change monthly, but more serious art aficionados can attend Preview Thursdays, a day before the big feast, to examine the artworks more privately.
107 East Charleston Boulevard, + (1) 702 3833133.
Part of the University of Nevada Las Vegas complex, the Marjorie Barrick Museum offers a multi-faceted collection for both contemporary art lovers and history buffs. Originally conceived as a natural history museum, it is now relocated on the university campus, where it houses a significant collection of pre-Colombian and ethnographic art. Since the Las Vegas Art Museum closed its doors, due to a lack of funds, the Barrick regularly features its collections at the newly-renovated exhibition halls while, thanks to its recent association with the College of Fine Arts, it also often delivers in-depth looks on ground-breaking contemporary art. If you are found wandering around the UNLV, don’t forget to visit the rest of the campus’s prominent exhibition spaces, such as the Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery, with a frequently changing schedule of international and local exhibitions.
4505 Maryland Parkway, UNLV campus, Paradise, + (1) 702 8953381.
Since 1975, Martin Lawrence Galleries have built up a reputed network of galleries across the United States, specializing in original paintings, sculptures and limited edition graphics of established and emerging artists, from Picasso and Chagall to Takashi Murakami and Felix Mas. Having, by now, lent nearly 250 of their masterpieces to museums and galleries across the world, there are still enough left for the fairly new Vegas brunch. Housed in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, on the famous Las Vegas Strip, the gallery constitutes a great cultural oxymoron, which by no means diminishes the preciousness of the Haring, Miro and Chagall paintings which you can browse inside, completely free of charge.
The Forum Shops At Caesars Palace, + (1) 702 9915990.
Located in the vibrant arts hub of East Charleston Boulevard, CAC is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization of artists, students, and instructors for the UNLV Department of Fine Art, united by their goal to create an adventurous Contemporary Arts Collective that would dare to do what others won’t. Starting with bold works that galleries were reluctant to exhibit, it now comprises a wide spectrum of contemporary art, sponsoring exhibitions, lectures, workshops, installations and fine art competitions. Upcoming exhibitions include a diverse multi-media pastiche by artists Sam Blanchard, Joe Casey Doyle and Matthew Schlagbaum.
107 E Charleston Blvd, Ste 12, + (1) 702 3823886.
Dedicated to raising awareness and appreciation for fine art on the 2nd floor of the 300,000-sq-ft Neonopolis shopping mall, the Southern Nevada Museum of Fine Arts is another stark contrast in the boisterous pell-mell of Fremont Street. A privately funded, non-profit organization active since 2003, it moved to the mall in 2008 in order to take advantage of 20,000 square ft of exhibition space, comprising of a the main gallery, a special exhibitions and a small works galleries. Often a welcome surprise to the wandering Neonopolis visitor, it has strengthened its contrasting presence with multi-cultural exhibitions that range from Contemporary Asian Art to Namaste: Portraits From India and Nepal and International Masters of Photography.
450 Fremont St., Suite 280, + (1) 702 3822926.
There is obviously not much cultural exploration to be had inside the LRCBH, but just looking at its facade makes for a fascinating architectural adventure. It is no wonder, since it is the work of characteristically whimsical and thrilling celebrity architect Frank Gehry, responsible for the iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Prague’s Dancing House, among others – all buildings having managed to instantly become the object of international controversy and fascination.
888 West Bonneville Avenue.
Don’t expect to find here the flashing lights and ephemeral joys of the Strip. The Neon Boneyard Museum offers a very different sight: in a sprawling surface crowded with giant, idiosyncratic typography in faded colors, The Boneyard houses more than 150 historic signs — from Caesars Palace to Binions Horseshoe and the aptly named Stardust, to name a few. An unlikely meeting spot for artists, students, historians, and designers, where to analyse, take inspiration and observe in awe, it can be explored via one of the museum’s guided tours, where you will discover fascinating details about the donated signs, the city’s history, and the passing trends that discreetly read… between the lines.
770 Las Vegas Boulevard North, + (1) 702 3876366.