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Saturday, January 31, 2004

Monet and Vegas: You're not Good Enough for that Art!

Steve Friess and Peter Plagens are both experts on Las Vegas and museum business in general. Their depth of knowledge of both are detailed well in the introductory paragraph of their Newsweek article on the Monet show at the Bellagio's Gallery of Fine Art...

"The Elvises aren't really Elvis, and the Venetian is an impersonator. That's the whole point of Las Vegas: flashy faux surroundings for the rattle of roulette wheels and the snap of blackjack cards. Museum exhibitions of fine art, though, stand or fall on their genuineness. So what's the deal when a museum-type show with the red-velvet title 'Claude Monet: Masterworks From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston' turns up Jan. 30 (through Sept. 13) at the Bellagio Gallery on the Strip? Oh, the 21 Monets—spanning four decades of his painting, from a portrait of his wife and daughter to one of the late water-lily pictures—are genuine, all right. It's the deal behind the show that's pure Vegas."

Well, the deal is that the Bellagio has a gallery of fine art, and what that means is that you put art that is fine in the gallery. Monets are fine.

The Newsweek article states, "L.A. Times art critic Christopher Knight says that the MFA 'ought to be ashamed of itself' for selling out to private interests." It's a shame that the authors didn't provide Knight with more space since his critique of the situation probably would have included more context, information, and genuine argument to support his opinions. MFA director Malcolm Rogers has been criticized in the past for his unorthodox programming and dealmaking, and the Boston Globe's article on the Vegas show explains why his past and present actions are of concern. The Las Vegas Business Press details some of the financial arrangements between all the involved parties, including the controversial rental aspect of the exhibition.

However, the Newsweek authors printed their Vegas misperceptions, or forgive me... misimpressionisms, for all to read. A combination of "Vegas-should-know-its-place" condescension and an incomplete and misleading view on museum show programming casts the Bellagio's gallery as the amoral hussy that cast a spell over the corruptible rube that is the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The Newsweek article cast aspersions on the PaceWildenstein/PaperBall-run gallery by stipulating that it might be a museum in disguise. It also anticipates financial failure for the show with an apple-to-oranges comparison to the ill-fated Guggenheim Las Vegas venue. Instead, why the authors didn't ask about the financial status of previous Bellagio exhibitions as a means of comparison is unclear.

Maybe they had to return their research copy of "Casino" back to Blockbuster and ran out of time.

posted by Mr. Kimberly at