The uninformed might think that Las Vegas doesn’t have a lot of culture, but those in the know point to the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art as one example of high culture in Sin City with its ever-rotating collection of art.
Since opening in 1998, the 2,800-square-foot gallery tucked away in the Promenade Shops across from the main pool entrance at the resort presented an ever-changing display of world-class art and objects borrowed temporarily from acclaimed museums and private collections around the world. Lately, the gallery has focused on the works of Japanese artists since parent company MGM Resorts is building its presence in Japan. Visitors will only find long-term exhibits that last anywhere from six months to longer and none of its own artwork.
Tarissa Tiberti serves as the executive director of MGM Resorts Art & Culture, overseeing the overall arts program, but from 2007 to 2009, she worked as the director of Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. Her job enables her to work with institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Warhol Museum to bring exhibits to Las Vegas.
Currently the gallery has a two-part, year-long exhibit on display featuring Japanese artwork. “Material Existence: Japanese Art from Jomon Period to Present" showcases some works that have never shown in the United States.
Independent curator Alison Bradley collected large-scale installations as well as smaller, intimate works, many of which originate in the country’s Kansai region. Through April 26, the exhibit shows a rare goggle-eyed dogū, a clay ritual object shaped like a human body and one of the few almost intact pieces in existence. Historians consider it an example of Japan’s first foray into sculpture in the years between 1,000 and 300 BC. A later piece, a Haniwa figure, features a helmeted head of a warrior from Kofun period of the mid-third century to sixth century AD. Others works included come from contemporary Japanese artists Tatsuo Kawaguchi, Tadaaki Kuwayama, ceramic artist Shiro Tsujimura and his sons Kai Tsujimura and Yui Tsujimura, and Kohei Nawa.
Then from May 16 through Oct. 11, the second part of the exhibit takes over, exploring sand, clay, and glass pieces of artwork. Two pieces teased include Ritsue Mishima’s colorless glass works and Takashi Kunitani’s neon light installation.
When the Bellagio Gallery of Art opened in 1998, it originally sat next to the conservatory and botanical gardens with a grand staircase leading up to it. You can still see that original staircase in the Las Vegas heist film “Oceans Eleven,” when Tess Ocean, played by Julia Roberts, walks down a red carpeted staircase as Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) and Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) watch. Two years after the film came out in 2001, the resort moved the gallery to the pool promenade.
Recent exhibits include Yasuaki Onishi’s solo exhibition “Permeating Landscape” with two large-scale installations; “Yayoi Kusama,” named after the iconic artist, and her two installations, “Infinity Mirrored Room: Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity” and “Narcissus Garden;” “Primal Water: An Exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Art” with 28 works spanning painting, sculpture, photography, installations, and film from 14 artists; and more than 50 pieces of samurai armor with full suits of armor, helmets, weapons, horse armor, masks, and more from the 14th to 19th centuries.
In the past, the gallery featured a tribute to boxer Muhammad Ali; artwork from Degas to Picasso that featured 47 works of art ranging from paintings and prints to drawings and photographs from Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, and Jean-François Mille; 238 Fabergé eggs; western art from pop artist Andy Warhol; and more than 50 pieces of art from women artists including Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Berthe Morisot.
Hours and Tickets
The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Last admission is half hour before the gallery closes.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for Nevada residents, seniors 65 and older, and students, teachers, and military with valid ID. Locals can visit the gallery for $11 admission on Wednesday nights from 5 to 7 p.m. Children five and younger are free.
Free daily docent tours start at 2 p.m., and an audio guide comes with every admission.
A neighboring gift shop offers arts-related items for purchase.
Other Artwork at the Bellagio
Walk into the front lobby to see glass artist Dale Chihuly’s “Fiori di Como,” a stunning canopy of hand-blown glass flowers in different colors. Steve Wynn commissioned the artwork that spans 2,000 square feet on the ceiling and took two years to complete before it debuted when the Bellagio opened in 1998. Chihuly found inspiration in the Italian fields during the spring. “The lighting was complicated, and the support structure was aesthetically challenging,” Chihuly says of his largest glass sculpture to date. The 20-ton piece of art valued at $3 million uses 2,000 pieces of hand-blown glass, which are attached to the ceiling using a matrix of steel rods, accessible via the above-ceiling catwalk.