Guggenheim Las Vegas Planned

The Guggenheim Museum and slot machines aren’t usually mentioned together, but a potential deal to bring a Guggenheim branch to this gambling mecca might inject some refinement into a city defined by neon signs and cheap buffets.

The Venetian hotel-casino is talking to the museum about creating the new Guggenheim outpost on a parcel adjacent to the resort’s parking garage.

“I think Las Vegas could use a little culture,” Marvin Roffman, a gambling analyst for Roffman Miller Associates, said Friday.

The 35,000-square-foot building on the Strip would serve as a venue for shows from the New York-based museum, and would be designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. It also would be the first significant collaboration between such an institution and a hotel-casino in the United States.

Frank Gehry May Design

Venetian and museum officials offered few details on the talks. A Guggenheim spokesman said the museum would not comment.

“We are in discussions with the Guggenheim and notable architects, but nothing is final at this stage,” Venetian spokesman Kurt Ouchida said. “The final design is still under development.”

As early as next year, the Guggenheim plans to lend its popular “The Art of the Motorcycle” show to the Venetian, the newspapers reported. Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry has been asked to design the exhibit.

The Times also reported Gehry and Guggenheim director Thomas Krens have been in talks with Venetian owner Sheldon Adelson to expand the Guggenheim’s presence at the $1.5 billion hotel-casino when the resort expands.

Gallery Hopping on the Strip The Guggenheim might have to compete with the Phillips Collection of Washington, D.C., which is negotiating with MGM Mirage to have an exhibit at the Bellagio hotel-casino.

But whether tourists really want to view a Picasso in between playing slot machines and blackjack remains to be seen.

When a fine art gallery opened at the glitzy Bellagio resort in 1998, some were unsure how it would mix in a city with roller coasters and showgirls. But Las Vegas has been attracting more upscale travelers, especially as the city increasingly plays host to more business conventions.

“The only reason why it’s happening is because it was working at Bellagio,” Roffman said. “There’s a lot of people that have never seen a Picasso.”

Vegas Makeover Bellagio founder Steve Wynn took half of his $400 million art collection with him when he left Mirage Resorts Inc.after MGM Grand Inc. acquired it and formed MGM Mirage earlier this year. Other pieces were sold to various collectors.

Wynn has since acquired the Desert Inn hotel-casino and plans to demolish it to build a new property, complete with his own art gallery.

The exhibit would tentatively be called “Masterworks from the Phillips Collection.” It would feature 20 to 30 pieces by several artists, including Picasso, Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne and Claude Monet, said Lynn Rossotti, spokeswoman for the Phillips Collection. It could open later this year.

The deal should be completed in the next couple of weeks.

“This fits in with what Las Vegas has to be in the future,” said Bill Thompson, a University of Nevada professor of public administration and a gambling expert. “If we don’t do this we’re in the same league with the Indian casinos and the river boats. We should aspire to be in our league.”

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