It’s taken me a few days to absorb what I observed, the other night, at Palms Casino Resort’s grand reveal; and I think I’m even more impressed, after having processed it all.  To describe what the Family Fertitta and Red Rock Resorts* has undertaken as a “remodel” (or even a “revamp”) would be a gross understatement.  No…  This was a property-wide reimagining; and the first wave of unveilings has been spectacular, and one thing is for certain - it sure is cool.

The single most noticeable addition – and one that’s bound to become one of the property’s signature scenes – is Unknown, artist Damien Hirst’s first interactive bar-concept, in the US.   Centered around Hirst’s 1999 work The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded) – in which a 13-foot long tiger shark (caught in the waters off Australia) has been cut in thirds, and suspended in formaldehyde, with each in its own tank of bulletproof glass and steel – the white marble bar in the center of the casino floor also features a number of Hirst’s Stearic Acid spot paintings, from his “Pharmaceuticals” series.

Mind you, Unknown is not the only place at Palms where one can gaze upon one of the famed YBA’s creations: One of Hirst’s Sun Disc sculptures (from 2017’s Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable**) can be found in Palms’ High Limit Gaming Lounge; alongside a pair of Andy Warhol’s 1981 Dollar Sign (Quad) screen-prints (no doubt so placed – by Palms’ Creative Director/Curator, Tal Cooperman – to bestow some auspicious feng shui harmonization, where it’s most needed (and appreciated)).  To that end, the art seems to have been curated to tell a story; and I plan to ask Cooperman what that story is, when I interview him, this month; so, stay tuned, for that…

As for the venues, there’s Camden Cocktail Lounge, off the casino floor; with its rich chocolate and charcoal hues.  Richard Prince’s noir Nurse in Las Vegas and Las Vegas Nurse (2006) gaze out with a creepy glamour, from either side of the bar; while Olivia Steele’s All I Ever Wanted was Everything (2018), installed in front of dark mirrors, hums – its neon enticing, like a seductive wink.

A quartet of Dustin Yellin’s Psychogeographies (2012) stand, like sentries, around the focal nexus of APEX Social Club; with the lights of the legendary Las Vegas Strip glittering, like a showgirl’s body-necklace, just beyond the patio surrounding the posh rooftop aerie.  Expect an emphasis on service, at both Camden and APEX; as both are operated by Andy Masi’s Clique Hospitality (and like the Brothers Fertitta, et al., Mr. Masi knows a thing or twelve, about providing a luxurious nightlife experience).

Perhaps my favorite space – or, at least the one in which I’ll no doubt spend the most time – is Scotch 80 Prime; the property’s signature steakhouse, helmed by Las Vegas fave, Chef Barry Dakake; that takes its name from one of Vegas’ first tony neighborhoods, Scotch 80s (where prominent citizens like Howard Hughes, Jerry Lewis, and Oscar Goodman hung their respective hats).  With even more blue-chip art on the walls – in the private dining room, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 triptych Speaks for Itself does just that, adjacent to another Basquiat; as still more incredible works by Warhol and Hirst, are joined by pieces by KAWS, and Scott Hove, throughout the spacious restaurant and its welcoming lounge.  I’ll be talking with Chef Barry about Scotch 80 Prime, in the next couple of weeks; but if, in the interim, you find yourself there – do yourself a favor, and enjoy a cocktail and some conversation on the intimate hedge-enclosed terrace.  It’s the perfect respite from all of the action, inside.

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[Editor’s Notes: *The parent company of Station Casinos // **In 2008, a similar Hirst work, featuring a tiger shark suspended in formaldehyde – The Kingdom – fetched £9.6 million, at Sotheby’s // ***Damien Hirst’s 2017 project, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable (shown contemporarily with that year’s Venice Biennale), was so massive that its installation required the 5,000 square foot entirety of both of the Pinault Collection’s two Venetian venues, Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana.  A decade in the making, it’s a fictitious maritime tale, featuring the bounty of The Unbelievable – a ancient treasure ship (owned by a freed slave!), that sank while en route to a temple of the Sun]

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