In the game of one-upmanship that is Las Vegas, newer usually means bigger. The small ranch style gaming saloons gave way to trendier digs like Bugsy’s Flamingo, which gave way to those hotels adding towers. Then came the megaresorts, and they added extra towers which were resorts of their own right. But that didn’t stop Vegas from going bigger yet.
Hence, two major projects were born on the heels of what was an economic upswing of epic proportions. MGM and Boyd Gaming both put massive amounts of money on the line and the resulting resort complexes became complete communities unto themselves. Unfortunately, the economy tanked, and Boyd’s megaproject called Echelon turned into a quarter-built hulking husk (now fortunately revived) and MGM’s project nearly met the same fate. But with an infusion of cash from DubaiWorld, MGM’s project made it through the gate (minus one shoddily built tower) and opened just slightly behind schedule. The name was CityCenter, and the reason was justified.
CityCenter was supposed to be the next level, a complete complex where one could experience multiple types of hotels, shopping, dining, gaming, and entertainment. It was not just a place where you could go and have a luxurious hotel stay at the Mandarin Oriental, but gamble or enjoy the modernity of Aria, the centerpiece resort, enjoy the solitude and smoke-free peace of Vdara’s all-suite/non-gaming digs, and shop and dine in the Daniel Libeskind-designed Crystals mall. CityCenter was designed to keep you in, and keeping you in meant keeping interest, something difficult with resorts beckoning you from every direction.
TONY CRAGG (BRITISH, B. 1949) / Bolt, 2007 / Bent of Mind, 2008 / Untitled (Tall Column), 2008 / ARIA Resort & Casino, Self-Park Lobby
Their solution was rather genius and took a page out of proper urban planning. By design, CityCenter was dotted with areas of interests. Pocket sized parks, dog walks, promenades, it’s own internal transportation system, and things to catch the eye and keep one interested. And in taking a cue from the success of Bellagio’s gallery of fine art and legendary Fountains, CityCenter added to that roster by creating it’s own carefully curated collection of installations and art meant to capture the moments that make CityCenter truly unique.
HENRY MOORE (BRITISH, B. 1898; D. 1986) / Reclining Connected Forms, 1969–1974 / The Park
The result is the CityCenter Fine Art Collection, billed as the first permanent public art collection in Las Vegas. And no expense was spared, to create a collection that is avant garde, engaging, unique and playful. It allows one to take time to wander through the resort and encounter moments of beauty, experiences of sound and sight. It gives this “city” what every city needs, culture.
MAYA LIN (AMERICAN, B. 1959) / Silver River, 2009 / ARIA Resort & Casino, Registration Desk
The entire collection consists of 28 pieces (give or take depending on changes to Aria or other properties) scattered throughout the complex. They encompass sculpted work by artists like Maya Lin (Vietnam Memorial, Washington DC), Claus Oldenberg and Nancy Rubins, as well as more traditional pieces like those by Julian Schnabel, Jack Goldstein, and Dennis Hopper.
CLAES OLDENBURG AND COOSJE VAN BRUGGEN (AMERICAN, B. 1929/AMERICAN, B. 1942; D. 2009) / Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, 1998–1999 / Pedestrian Bridge, Near Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas
And to create even more interest, MGM also commissioned WET Design to build water features that defied logic in some cases and the traditional ideas of what a fountain could be in order to further accentuate the collection. From the colliding brightly lit jets of water that look like paint at the main entry’s feature, Lumia, to the swirling vortexes of water and frozen jet-cut columns of ice that are Halo and Glacia respectively, the collection is pushes the boundary of what art is.
Halo / Latisse / Glacia / Lumia / Focus / WET Design
The result is a feeling not just of Vegas over the top, or the well respected yet slightly stuffy nature of Bellagio’s gallery or Wynn’s personal art collection, but something that’s approachable and enjoyable for all walks of life, and costs nothing more than wandering about the grounds. In a town where experience is becoming increasingly expensive, CityCenter’s Fine Art Collection is something that everyone could and should enjoy and experience as much as playing the penny slots or high-stakes Baccarat.
JENNY HOLZER (AMERICAN, B. 1950) / VEGAS, 2009 / ARIA Resort & Casino, North Valet Pickup
You can find out more about the collection, along with a PDF map and walking tour here.