Ahead of Tuesday’s opening of Tim Burton @ The Neon Museum, presented by the Engelstad Foundation, invited guests were invited on Sunday night to a preview reception.  There, at the Neon Museum, as dusk gave way to evening, we sipped on cocktails while weaving our ways through the museum’s marvelously curated exhibition of classic Las Vegas neon signs, into which site-specific sculptures and installations by Tim Burton had been strategically placed.

I made my way through the sprawling exhibit that comprised The Neon Museum’s Interior Exhibition and Boulevard Galleries, as well as the Neon Boneyard, the Dome (a circular gallery that’d been built in the Boneyard), the adjacent Boneyard Park, and the freestanding structure erected on McWilliams Avenue that housed Stain Boy’s Sing-a-Long (2019) – a multimedia sculpture/video installation/lip-sync situation.

Looking around I was pleased to notice friends including artist Jerry Misko (for whom neon signs have featured as a career-long muse), the Nevada Museum of Art’s Heather Harmon, art curator and recent Las Vegas transplant Ralph DeLuca and his visiting cousin Arturo, MGM Resorts’ go-to guru for art and culture, Tarissa Tiberti accompanied by her husband David Lacey and their radiant baby girl, and Plaza Casino honcho Jonathan Jossel, as well as Jeff Damon and Rick DiCarlo with the ever-vivacious and cheery Denise Cashman.

After the sun had set, and guests had had enough time to take in the various installations, it was time for the program.  I was heading back into the Boneyard (after rocking-out to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” at Stain Boy’s Sing-a-Long), and I reentered alongside Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her team, who had no doubt come to make a presentation, declaration, or bestow some such honorific upon Burton; so I skadooched myself right inside.

Finding a nice perch at the foot of the stairs (but still within arm’s reach of the bar), I had an unimpeded view of the proceedings, and watched as Bruce Spotleson (The Neon Museum, VP of Fund and Partner Development) brought the assembled to attention, and introduced Rob McCoy (The Neon Museum, President/CEO), Tim Burton, Kris Engelstad McGarry (The Engelstad Foundation, Trustee), the aforementioned Mayor Goodman, and Congresswoman Dina Titus (US Representative, Nevada’s First Congressional District).

First McCoy welcomed everyone and made a few words about the previous night’s Boneyard Ball, at which Burton had been honored with the museum’s 2019 Glow Award; after which, The Killers had played to an audience attired in their best Burton-inspired variations on black tie.  Then he introduced Kris Englestad McGarry, trustee of the exhibit’s presenting sponsor, the Englestad Foundation, who spoke eloquently to why these sorts of undertakings and cultural offerings are so important to Las Vegas.  Next, on behalf of Nevada’s First Congressional District (which includes McCarran International Airport, the Strip, and Downtown Las Vegas), Congresswoman Dina Titus cheered the museum’s collaboration with Burton.  [At this point, my view was obstructed by Titus’ assistant who must’ve decided that mine was a perspective worth having, and physically pushed me aside, force majeure-ing herself directly in front of me.  Oh well.  Had to get the footage for that next Instagram Story, I guess…]   

Then it was Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s turn at bat (or mic, as it were), and after a few lovely comments explained that she’d opted not to bestow The Key to the City of Las Vegas upon Burton, instead presenting the auteur and artist with one of the original 1959 lightbulbs from the Betty Willis-designed Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign (which was a brilliant tie-in to the whole thing); along with an invitation to Burton to come back in the future to receive the Key to the City.  And he really should.  (I have one: It’s lovely!)

After a funny kerfuffle involving reading glasses, an iPhone flashlight app, and a half-dozen people, Burton was able to read the inscription on the lightbulb’s presentation box, and thanked the Mayor, graciously.  He then spoke in his signature swoopy, sing-songy manner, touching on his childhood in Burbank, his love of Las Vegas, and the amazing opportunity that collaborating with The Neon Museum had offered, all punctuated by enthusiastic gesticulation.

It was a lovely evening, heralding a wonderful exhibit that I can describe thusly: If one were to make a Venn diagram examining Art and Popular Culture, that person would find LOST VEGAS: Tim Burton @ The Neon Museum blinking from the set where the two populations overlap.

LOST VEGAS: Tim Burton @ The Neon Museum
Presented by The Engelstad Foundation
October 15, 2019 – February 15, 2020
The Neon Museum
Click HERE for info and tickets

Get into it!