Las Vegas’ Emergence as World Art Hub Builds with New Exhibit

Posted on: October 13, 2022, 05:23h. 

Last updated on: October 13, 2022, 07:37h.

Las Vegas has become “something of an art world hot spot,” according to a recent article in Vanity Fair, because of three high-profile recent events in and around the city

The latest is Sin City’s selection by New York City art dealer Stefania Bortolami as the next location for her passion project. Since 2015, “Artist/City” has paired artists with American cities in unlikely locations. Debuting a week before Thanksgiving, the Las Vegas iteration will feature new works from L.A.’s poker-playing pop-artist Jonas Wood, as well as New York–based Japanese artists Koichi Sato (a self-taught painter known for his cartoon-like figures) and Susumu Kamijo (a student of peculiar animal behavior). The three artists have reportedly created new works for the exhibit based on their individual experiences of “Americana.”

City by Michael Heizer
Artist Michael Heizer gives a tour of  his ‘City.’ The half-mile-long art installation opened in August 2002, after taking 50 years to complete, about 90 minutes north of Las Vegas. (Image:

“The ‘Artist/City’ initiative reflects our interest in artistic experimentation outside the ordinary gallery setting,” Bortolami said in a press release. “With the ever-changing and fast-paced art market that we navigate today, ‘Artist/City aims for an additional paradigm in exhibition programming, offering site-responsive installations that broader audiences can experience over a longer period of time.”

The Bortolami Gallery, headquartered in New York City’s Soho, has presented eight iterations of “Artist/City” since its inception in 2015. They have included:

  • Hawaiian sculptor Paul Pfeiffer showing his multimedia pieces at the Watergate office building in Washington, DC.;
  • Belgian contemporary visual artist Ann Veronica Janssens silver-leafing the facades of several Baltimore theaters; and
  • L.A. artist Eric Wesley displaying his paintings of burritos in a former Taco Bell in St. Louis.

But the Las Vegas location is probably the most unlikely of all – as well as the most unsavory. We’ll reveal the location in a hot minute, because you won’t believe it. But first, another unlikely art location…

History’s Biggest Art Installation (Possibly)

The art world is flipping out over the August 2022 unveiling of the masterpiece that New York-based public artist Michael Heizer has been working on since 1970. “City” is an enormous complex Heizer managed to construct in the unforgiving rural desert near Alamo, Nev., 100 miles north of Las Vegas. And, this summer, it began welcoming its first visitors. No one’s willing to commit to the research yet, but at a mile and a half long, it stands a decent chance of being the biggest art installation ever.

Heizer was a leader of the land art movement of the ’70s. Sometimes also known as earthworks, the environmental genre – which grew out of the conceptual and minimalist movements – fuses art with nature to create structures that are less environmentally intrusive than the ones humans are famous for.

Heizer’s mostly outdoor works also include 2016’s “Tangential Circular Negative Line” in Mauvoisin, Switzerland and “Collapse” at Glenstone, Potomac, Md. But more art lovers have seen his 2012 boulder sculpture, “Levitated Mass,” since it’s on permanent display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“City” is designed to recall the ruins of a prehistoric city, with gigantic abstract forms composed of sand, cement, and other materials that emerge from the desert. It cost $40 million to produce, most of which came from grants from the Dia Art and Lannan foundations.

Appointments can only be made through the Triple Aught Foundation, which Heizer set up to oversee the artwork. Each reservation costs $150. And you need to be prepared for some brutal hiking in some very unforgiving sun. If interested, email [email protected]. However, all 2022 reservations are officially sold out.

Your Pick of Picassos

The first recent Las Vegas event to catch the eye of the high-end art world was the sale of disgraced casino mogul Steve Wynn’s impressive former Picasso Collection. That took place last year at a pop-up Sotheby’s auction in an MGM Resorts office. In total, 11 Picassos sold for $109 million, exceeding the $100 million pre-sale estimate.

These included the top prize, “Femme au béret rouge-orange,” a bright 1938 portrait of the artist’s muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter, which sold for $40.5 million following a lengthy bidding war. The paintings were sold by MGM, which acquired them as part of its $4.4 billion acquisition of The Mirage from Wynn in 2000.

The Unlikely Vegas Location For ‘Artist/City’

“Artist/City” will open in a decommissioned Greyhound bus station next to the Plaza Hotel and Casino downtown. According to the release, “Visitors will enter the once-abandoned bus station and immerse themselves in a surreal, yet ordinary scenario imagined by the three artists, reminiscent of travelers waiting for their bus.”’s own “Vital Vegas” blogger, Scott Roeben, called that bus station “a magnet for crime” before it closed,  reporting that it drew “the most police calls for service in the entire city.”

The bus terminal closed in February 2021, when the Plaza Hotel refused to renew its lease. The Plaza had planned to redevelop the vacant building into new shops, restaurants, and an entertainment venue. Though that transformation hasn’t happened yet, the Greyhound station relocated next to Harry Reid International Airport.

“Artist/City Las Vegas” will run in the former Greyhound Bus Station at 200 S. Main St. from Nov. 18, 2022 to Feb. 26, 2023. Admission/ticket details are not yet available, but email [email protected] for information. 


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