The words “art” and “Vegas” aren’t always synonymous, but the city is packed with cutting edge art spaces that provide a great cultural infusion amidst the other excesses found on the Strip. Whether you’re a Sin City local or just passing through, a trip to these six museums, galleries and project rooms are not to be missed. If you time your trip right, be sure to check out “First Fridays” in the Downtown Arts District, when the area is bustling with exhibition openings, food trucks, drinks, and live music.
True to its name, the Neon Museum is where iconic casino, restaurant, and other defunct signage goes to breathe a second life as a Vegas artifact. Visitors here can take a guided tour of the Neon Boneyard—an outdoor area that displays over 150 signs of various significance in Vegas’ history, some dating back to the 1930s. The old Moulin Rouge Hotel and Stardust Resort signs are our personal favorites.
Cosmopolitan and P3 Studios
At the Cosmopolitan, you’ll see work by some of the world’s best contemporary artists. Check out British-born Tracy Emin’s neon sculptural pieces; a 65-foot marquee playing an anime video by Laurie Simmons; or portraiture, like this one of George Clooney taken by Yayoi Kusama, an extension of W magazine’s Shooting Stars exhibition. There’s also P3 Studios, which hosts an artist-in-residency program for guests to see first-hand what the inside of an artist’s studio is like.
Contemporary Arts Center
Located in the industrial Downtown Arts District, this small nonprofit started 25 years ago for UNLV Department of Fine Art professors, students and artists to show their work. Now that mission has expanded, to bring touring works from around the country by emerging artists, including their annual juried show with work by over 30 artists, local and otherwise.
Brett Wesley Gallery
Former software design publisher Brett Wesley left the world of tech to pursue his other passion: fostering an area for emerging and established creatives to exhibit, in the heart of the Arts District. Here you’ll find work by big names such as David LaChapelle, Paul Morrison, and Marilyn Minter. But you’ll also see art by locals, like the UNLV Masters student show, up throughout February.
For the first time, photographer Terry O’Neill’s prolific imagery is on display at SLS Las Vegas.
The Modern Las Vegas
When it’s built, The Modern will be a 35,000 square foot museum dedicated to contemporary art and design. Spearheaded by Katie O’Neill—great-granddaughter of casino tycoon Benny Binion—the project will be the most ambitious cultural center downtown Las Vegas Art District has seen. The Modern will be prominently located downtown and comprised of a museum area, education center, and outdoor sculpture park. Funds are still being raised to realize this progressive development, at which point a better idea of its timing will be made public.