Beyond buffets and slots: Casinos double down on fine art
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.
Hoping to expand their appeal beyond the slot machine and buffet crowd, some casinos are turning to fine art galleries or exhibitions to bring in new business from customers who might not otherwise visit a gambling hall.
In the process, they are helping not only broaden their own customer bases, but are also putting new eyeballs in front of some of the world’s great works of art.
One such effort began on July 8 at Atlantic City’s Hard Rock casino, where the highly acclaimed “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” exhibit opened. The 30,000-square-meter display uses over 300 of Van Gogh’s works, reproducing them digitally and projecting them onto screens, walls and floors.
“The whole point of an experience like this is to bring people in,” said Fanny Curtat, the exhibit’s art historian. “For a lot of people, museums are intimidating. It’s all about exploring and having more ways of experiencing art.”
Joe Lupo, the casino’s president, said casinos need to appeal to as broad a range of potential customers as possible.
“You need to try different experiential things to help the city acquire new visitation, whether it’s art or some other experience to acquire that person who doesn’t look at Atlantic City as just a gaming destination,” he said. “The Van Gogh exhibit has been successful in every major market in the country, and Atlantic City needs to be looked at as one of those major markets. I think it elevates the city and the property with such a high-profile exhibit.”
The walk-through exhibit projects Van Gogh’s artwork onto the walls and floor of a viewing room, with images growing and flowing into one another: cherry trees, for example, sprout and grow blossoms, that then blow away in the breeze.
Shimmering walls of color dissolve and flow into other shapes and images all around the viewer.
Other casinos are doing likewise. The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas has displayed works by Picasso, Monet, Warhol, Titian and Van Gogh.
The Palms Casino Resort features modern art pieces from Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Prince and Andy Warhol, and numerous street artists.
MGM’s Aria Resort features public art including sculptures by artists including Antony Gormley, Richard Long and Henry Moore.
The Hippodrome Casino in London in 2013 appointed a digital artist in residence, Thomas D Gray, and offers a competition for U.K. artists to have their works displayed there.
Maryland’s Live! Casino & Hotel has an art collection curated by Suzi Cordish, whose husband owns the casino. The collection includes more than 40 works by artists including Warhol, Jennifer Steinkamp, Charlie Ahn, Robert Indiana and Not Vital.
“Many guests are intrigued once they realize the breath of the collection,” said Renee Mutchnik, a spokesperson for the casino. “We believe that any appreciator of the arts would be impressed by our art pieces, and we are always looking for opportunities to promote the collection.”
Placing fine art in casinos benefits not only the gambling halls by appealing to new customers, according to Curtat, the Van Gogh exhibit historian. She said it also helps create new art lovers.
“It might seem like an unlikely pairing, but if anybody gets out of this a feeling that they have this connection with Van Gogh, maybe the next time they are in New York they’ll want to go to [The Museum of Modern Art] and see the actual ‘Starry Night’ on the museum wall,” Curtat said. “That will be a win.”