Las Vegas: a top cultural and artistic destination
There have been many descriptions of Las Vegas and certainly they are all very similar: “Las Vegas is the capital of neon and casinos, it’s extravagant, it’s tacky, but it’s fun” or, as Tom Wolfe said, “Las Vegas is the American Monte Carlo, but it doesn’t have the luxurious mustiness of the European aristocracy, it’s the capital of another kind of luxury, the place where nouveau richness has to dissimulate”.
That’s how it is made known, and how it is known. In addition, travel guides emphasize the same idea, “clearly these are not cultural holidays, but fun”, taking for granted, not only that culture cannot be found in Las Vegas, but also that cultural tourism and fun are opposites, and that’s what says one of the most renowned American guides, Frommer’s.
Today, we want to show you that Las Vegas is a cultural and artistic destination as well as an amusing one. Although it was conceived as a resort, as a playground, its luminous extravagance finally attracted not only fortune seekers and party tourists, but also a number of artists and writers.
So let’s leave these prejudices behind for once, because yes, ladies and gentlemen, in Las Vegas there’s art too, and it’s worth getting to know it. In recent years, the city has become crowded with museums, art galleries and exhibition centres, from classical museums with important collections by great masters, such as the Bellagio Gallery, to galleries that showcase emerging local artists or contemporary experimentation spaces. Don’t you believe it? Let’s take a look to some of them below.
1. The Arts Factory
The Arts Factory is a huge shopping mall full of contemporary art galleries and spaces aiming to promote local artists, including photographers, painters, graphic designers, and others. It is also a perfect place to discover the city’s artistic scene and atmosphere and to unwind from noise, as it is located in Gateway, one of the quietest areas for lunch or dinner at the well-known Bar+Bistro.
Also, every first Friday of the month there is a party event in which local artists are introduced and their works are exhibited, as well as art-oriented businesses, with live music, performance and other cultural events and activities.
2. P3 Studio The Cosmopolitan
P3 Studio is located on the third floor of The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, and it is a large glass studio where artists work on residency programs.
The originality lies in the artists, who create a kind of “interactive art”, in which anyone can come and interact with them, ask them questions, and even participate in the creation itself of their works (usually from 6 to 11 and from Wednesday to Sunday).
3. The Gallery at CityCenter
Many of you may not be familiar with the name of Dale Chihuly, the genius who filled the Bellagio lobby with crystal flowers, probably one of the most photographed art facilities in Las Vegas.
Chihuly is a leading American sculptor, known for his specialized works in blown glass. His fascination for abstract shapes from nature and his love for the ocean and its marine creatures are reflected in his art, exploring not only the so-distinctive colours of his works, but also design and assembly.
Currently, many of his creations can be found in different museums worldwide, as part of an architectural ensemble. However, it is here in Las Vegas, and specifically in The Gallery at CityCenter, the best place to see the largest collection of works made by this artist.
4. Marjorie Barrick Museum
The past of Native Americans comes to life at the Marjorie Barrick Museum, the former Museum of Natural History.
Here you will find pieces ranging from handicrafts, masks, ceramics by indigenous cultures —such as Mesoamerican, pre-Columbian and Native American cultures— Mexican dance altarpieces, Guatemalan and Bolivian textiles… among many other treasures.
The Marjorie Barrick Museum is also known for the many temporary exhibitions held in its different spaces, and for promoting its commitment to visual arts in a broad community that includes students, professors and staff from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
As a curiosity, it has a beautiful garden made up only of plants that can survive in the desert surrounding the city.
5. Martin Lawrence Galleries
In The Forum Shops at Caesars, among stores that pretend to be immersed in a Roman forum, there is one of the nine branches of one of the most prestigious galleries in the world, Martin Lawrence Galleries, the only place in Las Vegas where visitors can enjoy and meet face to face original and unique works by the main masters of the 20th Century, such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Keith Haring, Joan Miró, etc.
Furthermore, it is the only gallery that can boast about having a complete set of Marilyns by Andy Warhol, and the largest oil painting by Salvador Dalí. More than 2,500 square meters, located in the Caesars Palace, adorned with neon, replete, as we said, with the best works of art from the last 100 years, which are not only available to admire, but also to acquire.
6. Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art
But if you really want to talk about art, just name the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, the city’s main exhibition space and the jewel in the crown. Actually, when Bellagio decided to open its own art gallery, many people responded with disbelief (how is it possible, Las Vegas is fun!), but a few years later, the casino itself had to double the exhibition halls because they were too small.
From time to time, the BGFA undertakes to hold intimate exhibitions with works by some of the world’s most important artists, including Picasso, Roy Lietchteinstin, Paul Cézanne, Andy Warhol, Monet… Tickets are often expensive, but after all, it is the Bellagio.
7. The Art of Richard MacDonald
Also in the Bellagio there is another gallery, The Art of Richard MacDonald, the result of a collaboration between the famous figurative sculptor Richard MacDonald (1946) and Guy Laliberté (1959), founder of the Cirque du Soleil.
Both said they shared the same “creative purposes,” and launched an exhibition that currently comprises more than 100 bronze works by this sculptor, many of them of large dimensions, which include representations of the artists of the Cirque du Soleil, classical dancers, and mythological figures. All of them are focused on the energy and passion of the moving human body. Certainly, a spectacle to our eyes!