Material Existence’ draws art aficionados to Las Vegas


Installation View of Material Existence: Japanese Art From Jomon Period To Present’. at BELLAGIO GALLERY OF ART, 2019

Las Vegas is often recognized as the hedonism capital of the world. It is famous across the globe for its casinos, hotels and the Las Vegas Strip, which is probably one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the world, what with the likes of the Bellagio, Palazzo, Venetian, Caesar’s Palace, MGM Grand and Luxor hotels all situated on the 4-mile long stretch. Vegas is certainly a gambler’s paradise, but it is something diametrically opposite that is attracting visitors to ‘Sin City’ these days.

The Bellagio’s Gallery of Fine Arts is hosting an exhibition on the earliest days of Japanese art and culture, in a setup called Material Existence: Japanese Art From Jomon Period To Present’. This installation is a two-year-long exhibition and will be open throughout the year, and has been curated by Alison Bradley in partnership with MGM Resorts Art & Culture. The exhibition will feature both ancient and modern contemporary Japanese art, with visitors encouraged to learn more about Japanese culture through the artwork of the country. Most of the pieces are from the Kansai region in Japan, and in Bradley’s words, she “hopes that the audience exits with a new perspective and a desire to learn more about Japanese art.”

The exhibition has found national attention due to some extremely rare and prized pieces that are part of its display. The most significant of these is the ‘Goggle-Eyed Dog?”, a clay ritual object made in the shape of a human’s body, which is being shown publicly for the first time. In fact, it is only the second time that the piece has left Japan. Other gems include the ‘Haniwa Head of a Warrior’; a warrior’s helmeted head dating back to the Kofun period, and the ‘Kohei Nawa’, another piece that is being shown in the United States for the first time. These are just three of the many pieces on display, spanning eras and materials, which display the breadth and diversity of Japanese culture. The curator’s intention is for the viewer to consider each piece individually, but also the entire exhibition as a whole, in order to gain a deeper understanding of not just Japanese art, but their own relationship with art and culture in general.

Punters can wander into the gallery before or after a roulette game, for example, from the casino, and be confronted with an extremely unique experience. In fact, this is just the first part of the exhibition, with part two coming on May 16. Some pieces on display currently, such as “Stone and Light No. 4”, hint at what is to come from the expanded exhibition, with elements of neon, glass, ceramics and painting to be part of it. Most of the artwork by Tatsuo Kawaguchi is a blend – modern yet ancient, simple yet profound, forcing the audience to find themselves at a crossroads, and giving a perfect preview of what to expect from part two of the exhibit. Part one is on display till April 26, while part two will be accessible till October 11, so it is imperative that art aficionados, and even the general public who are interested in Japanese art and culture, get themselves to the Bellagio as soon as they can, because this is a truly unique art installation which should not be missed.

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper'