The Weekly was in its third year when I started writing for the magazine, and headed into its eighth anniversary when I left Las Vegas. The Guggenheim Foundation would limp through another year and a half in the city after my departure, but somehow I see it bookending my stint as the Weekly’s art critic.
I had started writing about art in Las Vegas the summer of 2001, when the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art was the Strip’s sole fine art venue. But Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim’s ambitious director, would change that. After extending the Guggenheim brand to Bilbao and Berlin, he decided to plant two museums at the Venetian. The result was almost as audacious as Bilbao’s celebrated Frank Gehry-designed museum. Krens hired Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who fitted a 63,700-square-foot exhibition space into the Venetian complex and affixed a Cor-Ten steel wall to its Strip-side façade. The September opening of the Guggenheim Las Vegas and the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum was pushed back a month after 9/11. Although it was a somewhat subdued event, the opening was marked by Krens and a group of celebrities motorbiking from LA to Las Vegas.
The recycled Art of the Motorcycle show, and the Guggenheim Las Vegas, lasted only a year. The Hermitage collaboration was always more promising, though. For one presser, Krens appeared with Dennis Hopper, both golf-attired, and Krens admitted they were links-bound. Hopper made a few astute remarks, but something about the moment spelled the transitory nature of the Vegas venture, as if it had never been more than a vanity project.
The general art scene flourished in Las Vegas during those years, and I count myself lucky to have written about it, motorcycles, masterpieces and all.
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