Pondering Jeff Koons’ ‘Tulips’ at the Wynn

Seek out “Tulips,” in front of the Wynn Theater.

“I’m sorry. I have to ask you to step away from the rail,” says the security guard with whom I’ve been talking for the past 20 minutes. “If your camera drops in there, even I can’t get it.”

I understand completely. This isn’t your run-of-the mill Strip attraction, after all, not at the cost of nearly $34 million—the highest price ever paid for a Jeff Koons. And then there’s the sense of responsibility. Steve Wynn, like any collector, is a steward of the art, preserving it for future generations; yet here it is, extravagantly corralled in a Vegas casino. I lean back and join the tourists looking at the seductive, shiny, decadent, impeccably master-crafted work known simply as “Tulips.”

The lilting reflective bouquet was purchased in November at Christie’s and placed on a round mirror outside the Wynn Theater, where it will reside for three years before moving to Wynn’s new property in Macau. Tourists fawn over it, ask what it is, if it’s made of glass. Some, more knowing, discuss the location of the giant mirror-polished stainless steel sculpture—seven slightly deflated and somewhat erotic balloon tulips, each one a monochromatic piece reflecting the next. It’s highbrow-meets-kitsch, and it’s perfectly at home in Las Vegas. Even amid the extravagantly sophisticated décor of the Wynn, “Tulips” manages to stand out—a marvelous spectacle reflecting a spectacle.

“This is a modern art masterpiece,” another security guard says to a trio of tourists. “Ah,” they respond collectively with a laugh. After a bewitching hour of gratitude and wonderment, I wipe the drool from my chin and head out, knowing I’ll be back.

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Kristen Peterson

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