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Gaming Guru

Kristen Peterson
 

Big-scale art on Strip would beckon visitors

12 November 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Las Vegas Strip hotel operators have always seemed like crazed puppeteers, changing props on a whim to suit the short attention spans of tourists. It's fun to see what might come next from this experimental laboratory with its enormous budget.

Lately, the trend is "sophistication" and hotels are playing follow the leader.

For example, the Luxor ripped out its Egyptian theme attractions, renovated and opened slick nightclubs. The pesky problem of doing all of this inside a building still shaped like a pyramid was reasoned away by Luxor designers who compared it to the ancient pyramids: mysterious and intriguing in a dark and sexy way.

Clever.

But what to do if you're New York-New York, the chunk of the Big Apple stacked neatly at Las Vegas Boulevard and Tropicana Avenue, wrapped by a cherry red roller coaster?

New York the city is sexy, gritty and intriguing. New York the attraction is a supersized corporate diorama that will blow you away for a million different reasons. But for how long?

It's true that Las Vegas has been theming for decades (American West, Arabian, atomic, futurist). But while theming has lasted, the hotels haven't.

La Concha survived, but only as a revered artifact displaced.

The MGM Grand stayed current by getting rid of its Yellow Brick Road and tossing out its theme park with its family-friendly rides, Disneylike acts and strolling jugglers.

The ideal way to approach New York-New York and other location-themed hotels might be by looking at what else is happening on the Strip.

Example: The $40 million that CityCenter is spending on artwork (can't wait to see Claus Oldenburg's 19-foot "Typewriter Eraser, Scale X" in the Boneyard 20 years from now).

Here are a few options to integrating art on other properties and downplaying the Disney:

New York-New York

With apologies to Christo and Jeanne-Claude, here's an idea for New York-New York: Wrap it.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have wrapped the Kunsthalle in Switzerland, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, a coastline in Australia, a tower in Italy and the Reichstag in Berlin (which cost $13 million). By wrapping New York-New York with polyethylene and rope, they would be "packaging" the resort and allowing tourists to rethink the environment. While they are at it, they could wrap the Stratosphere and the big balloon marquee out front at Paris.

Excalibur

Two words: Thomas Kincade. Sure, he's a little mainstream, a little decorative, populist and some might say "banal." But this is the Las Vegas Strip, the perfect venue for a misty, illuminated Kincadian reality.

Imagine the delicious little Kincade trinkets filling the gift shops of the golden-windowed castles. Throw a fresh and tidy blanket of snow across its rooftops, add swans to the swimming pool and make it a cozy feel-good hideaway at that corner of the Strip. Slot machines could be shaped like vertical cottages, with plumes of smoke coming from the chimneys and images of his landscapes on the front glass.

Add glowing street lamps and sleigh rides to the casino and a misty rain over everything.

The Excalibur is inviting in its "It's a Small World" kind of way, and if we waited long enough, it could be retro cool.

But tourists would flock, without question, to see a Kincade resort. It would set us back in the art world, but what do we care? Kincade knows how to do it. Just visit his Kincade-themed community, "The Village at Hiddenbrooke" in Northern California.

Circus Circus

Don't touch it.

Seriously.

Let's savor this one.