If there’s one thing you don’t expect from a mega-casino resort on Las Vegas’ famous strip, it’s that there will be an art gallery inside. It’s also fair to say that this is no afterthought – the gallery space was clearly incorporated as part of the design as if whoever was building a gigantic casino and hotel also wanted to make a statement about art. In fact that’s not quite true – the original gallery was sited in the Conservatory area; where the art is now displayed was once an space reserved for CEO Steve Wynn’s personal collection.
The Bellagio opened in 1998 and could perhaps be described as the first mega-casino resort. It’s also possibly the most recognisable Las Vegas casino for those who’ve never been to the city in the desert. It’s famous fountains are recognisable from the closing scenes of Ocean’s Eleven and the aforementioned Conservatory area featured Julia Roberts from the same film.
Other parts of the building also contain some astonishing pieces of art so if you don’t feel ready to pay to get into one of the exhibitions you don’t have to. The lobby ceiling contains an amazing glass sculpture by American artist Dale Chihuly – it consists of 2000 hand-blown glass blossoms which are suspended 18 feet in the air. Chihuly’s work can also be spotted in the Baccarat Lounge, the Conservatory and the Botanical Gardens.
Exhibitions are fairly regular at this casino and that’s a statement you don’t hear very often – it’s a little way off but from January next year there will be a Monet exhibition here. Entitled Claude Monet: Impressions of Light, it will feature 20 works by the French Impressionist which will be loaned from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Also on display will be paintings by some of Monet’s contemporaries such as Eugene Louis Boudin, Camille Pissarro and Jean-Baptists-Camille Corot.
Perhaps an art gallery in a casino is not so strange – why should Blackjack and Poker players not appreciate art? Why would those at the Roulette wheel or the Craps table not want to take in a Monet exhibition after some hours gambling? Of course there’s no reason so next time you’re in Vegas check it out, even if you’re preference is something more profitable.