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Fine Art

Could art and culture be key to Downtown’s success?

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Culture coming: An artist’s rendering of the upcoming Modern Contemporary Art Museum.

At an event last week that unveiled plans for a private Downtown art museum, deputy city manager Scott Adams dropped another piece of news. Adams said that cultural institutions and events have brought 1.2 million new visitors to Downtown in the past year—equivalent in impact, he said, to that of an NBA or NHL arena.

It didn’t take long for the magnitude of that number to settle in. Adams said that an art museum, like the planned Modern Contemporary Art Museum, would add to that statistic. It’s about time.

Less than four years ago when a proposal was scrapped for a private Downtown art museum, then-Mayor Oscar Goodman wasn’t exactly grieving. He said that Las Vegas didn’t need an art museum, and that those who wanted to see art could fly to Los Angeles.

But this was before Downtown culture had proved itself. The Neon Museum had yet to open; the Smith Center and Mob Museum were still in the planning stages. First Friday was going strong, but Life is Beautiful—the music and art festival that factors into Adams’ total count of 1.2 million—wasn’t even a pipe dream.

A rendering of The Modern's Center for Creativity classroom.

It’s not that desire for an art museum in the community has sprouted suddenly. There’s been plenty of lamenting over not having one. Even Mayor Carolyn Goodman has stated on a few occasions that every great city in the history of civilization has also had great art.

Whether the planned Modern Contemporary Art Museum will indeed have great art in its 35,000 square feet of galleries remains to be seen. Brett Sperry, who has been working on the project for a few years, says that Modern Contemporary is not at this time a collecting museum, and that it will be a while before the board figures out the programming. As of now, the board and advisory board is lined with business people, community leaders and active fundraisers focused on raising the $29 million needed for the building at Charleston and Art Way ($2.4 million in cash and land donations has already been pledged). Meanwhile, the name itself, which references two distinctive art movements, is perplexing, particularly since the work shown will be contemporary, not modern.

Murmurings around town say that certain board members have been inquiring about the Zabludowicz Collection, which belongs to art collectors Anita and Poju Zabludowicz. Poju is chairman and chief executive of Tamares Group, the party that previously proposed plans for a contemporary art museum.

Pieces from that collection alone would likely be a huge draw. For now, it’s a waiting game.

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Kristen Peterson

Kristen Peterson joined the Las Vegas Sun in 1998 as a general assignment reporter. In 2003, she turned her focus ...

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