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By E.C. Gladstone

Ever since 1955, when Noel Coward graced the stage at the Desert Inn, there’s been an ongoing debate about whether or not culture could thrive in the freewheeling, easy-dealing Sin City. Surprisingly, when art collector Steve Wynn opened the Bellagio with its own Gallery of Fine Art, the discussion only became more heated.

But the upcoming performance of legendary operatic tenor Placido Domingo at Planet Hollywood‘s Theatre for the Performing Arts on September 15 seemed like a good time to review the more refined pursuits of our little oasis.

Small by museum standards,  Bellagio’s Gallery nonetheless continues to present worthy exhibitions. The current American Modernism review includes many rarely seen canvases by Georgia O’Keefe, Max Weber, Hans Hoffman, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Garfield Dove and Arshile Gorky in an unusually relaxed and intimate setting. Visitors to the property should also enjoy three free attractions: The Art Of Richard MacDonald in the foyer of the ‘O’ Theatre, the glorious Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in the hotel lobby, and the ever-changing floral displays at Bellagio‘s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.

If science or history are in your sights, Luxor has a newly expanded presentation of Bodies The Exhibition and the Tropicana houses an exhibit of genuine S.S.Titanic artifacts. Forum Shops, Fashion Show Mall and the Grand Canal Shoppes all have a wde variety of retail art galleries worth exploring (Peter Max, Peter Lik and more).

Anyone here the first week of the month (or any) should try to attend First Fridays downtown, a regular open house and fanciful block party of our city’s downtown galleries on and around Charleston Boulevard. Golden Nugget is certainly the preeminent place to stay downtown — though it’s actually the budget-priced historicEl Cortez casino which has a free First Friday shuttle.

Farther afield on the west side, the Las Vegas Philharmonic is celebrating its tenth year; Bosendorfer Pianos of Las Vegas displays the largest selection of the uncommon instruments in the country; and the Las Vegas Art Museum is presenting a selection of contemporary art owned by local collectors, including works by Basquiat, Hirst, Hockney, Murakami, Price, Ruscha and Warhol (LVAM is hosting a celebratory gala at the elegant Wynn resort on September 27). Summerlin’s Red Rock Resort and JW Marriott are two fine places to stay nearby.

So feel free to continue the debate about Las Vegas culture over a plate of fine cheese and a glass of excellent wine at any number of excellent restaurants up and down the Strip… we’ve already made up our minds!

Insider tip: Though it is a retail store, Bauman Rare Books (Palazzo) displays astounding historical literary works, political documents, and even some artworks — but Las Vegans may be most intrigued by their impressive collections of Western Frontier maps and rare food, wine and cocktail books.

Related Orbitz resources:

E.C. Gladstone is a former editor for AOLVegas, and interviews top
Strip entertainers, restaurateurs, moguls and behind-the-scenes
players for VEGAS Magazine. Like many Las Vegans, he sleeps only when
absolutely necessary.

Tagged: Las Vegas

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