Las Vegas Redux

To step inside the new lobby of Palms Casino Resort is to be struck by a kind of dazzling reverie—not only is it an air-conditioned escape from Nevada’s crippling heat, but it doubles as a world-class art venue. And while the Venetian may have a manmade Grand Canal, and Paris Las Vegas its fake Eiffel Tower, the Palms went a different route with their $620-million (U.S.) renovation: all the art is real, and much of it is rare.

Curated by the Palms creative director Tal Cooperman, the blue-chip bling has turned the hotel into a world-class contemporary art gallery. It starts the moment you enter through the hotel’s large glass doors: above the central bar hangs Damien Hirst’s The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded)—a tiger shark sliced in three sections and mounted within a formaldehyde-filled steel-and-glass tank. If that doesn’t leave you breathless, turn left to the check-in desk, above which screams Wish You Were Here! in italicized hot-pink neon against a cloud-tufted blue sky—a piece by light artist Olivia Steele and photographer Keegan Gibbs. For high rollers headed to the private VIP registration lounge for check-in, plush couches washed in sultry lighting greets guests, along with artwork by New York street-art star Eric Haze. Stride to the elevators past 1,000 slot machines to spot a canvas full of Takashi Murakami’s trademark smiling flowers, then keep eyes peeled for 15 other Hirst works dotted throughout the resort, including the kaleidoscopic Believer, crafted from thousands of multicoloured butterfly wings. The Palms could name-drop its art collection all day—Richard Prince, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol—and it should, because that’s the Vegas way: if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

All the art is real, and much of it is rare.

Indeed, like most hotels on the Strip, this property deals in the business of excess, though the Palms is, notably, a five-minute drive off the Strip and refreshingly removed from the chaos of traffic jams and cocktail-swigging pedestrians that prowl Las Vegas Boulevard. Since it opened in 2001, the Palms has been favoured among celebrities and is known for its uber-ritzy Sky Villas and in-house recording studio, which has been used by the likes of Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Mariah Carey. In 2016, the Palms was purchased by Station Casinos and the current renovation is reportedly the most expensive in Vegas history. At the end of the full transformation there will be 10 restaurants—including concepts by top-brass celebrity chefs Michael Symon, Marc Vetri, and Bobby Flay—along with 260 renovated rooms, 77 suites, and six butler-serviced Sky Villas located in the whimsically-named Fantasy Tower. Next summer, in partnership with the Tao Group, a nightclub will open, along with a 73,000-square-foot pool club. It’s a good thing too, because one has not lived in true bacchanal bliss until one has experienced a Vegas pool party, and this venue will hold no less than 5,000 revellers.

The gluttony continues at the hotel’s very own movie theatre; a live-show theatre called Pearl; the glitzy APEX Social Club, with one of the best views of the Strip; and a very fine all-you-can-eat buffet (called A.Y.C.E.) for a classic Vegas experience. Better yet, dress to impress for dinner at Scotch 80 Prime. The carnivorous menu drips of opulence with tomahawk ribeye steaks, pillowy gnocchi with white truffle cream, and lobster tails drenched in scampi butter. If you get lost en route, just look out for the towering eight-foot-tall Small Lie statue by graffiti artist Kaws, which greets guests at the restaurant entrance in stoic splendour.

Photos courtesy of the Palms Casino Resort. 

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