Can casinos be art galleries? | Smart News

By adding art exhibits like “Beyond van Gogh”, casinos hope to become known for more than gambling.
Courtesy of Timothy Norris / Beyond van Gogh

If Atlantic City customers Hard Rock Casino venturing to the second level, just above the table games and slot machines on the ornately decorated casino floor, they’ll find 30,000 square feet of swirling color projected onto the walls and floors of a ballroom .

It’s an art gallery, seen through the filter of Atlantic City extravagance.

Beyond van Gogh: the immersive experience» projects elements of Vincent Van Goghspace paintings. The stars flash; vases of flowers flow into each other. The traveling exhibitionwhich opened in Atlantic City this month, is expected to draw some 100,000 visitors to the New Jersey casino, per Philadelphia Weeklyit’s Chuck Darrow.

The show’s goal is to make Atlantic City more than “just a gambling destination,” casino president Joe Lupo told Wayne Parry. Associated Press (AP). “The van Gogh exhibit was successful in every major market in the country, and Atlantic City must be considered one of those major markets.”

Across the country, casinos like the Hard Rock are hoping to attract new audiences with artistic and immersive experiences, reports the AP. In Las Vegas, the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts exhibited works by van Gogh, as well as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Andy Warhol. In London, the Hippodrome Casino organizes an art competition which he presents as a chance for artists to exhibit their work “in one of the most prestigious casinos in the world”.

As part of a $620 million renovation, Palm treesthe iconic Las Vegas casino and resort, opened a contemporary and street art collection in 2018, including over 100 works by Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiatreported CNBCIt was Jimmy Im at the time. The following year, Palms announcement he would hang the first permanent Banksy coin in Las Vegas in his lobby restaurant.

“We’re seeing more and more that guests … want to be wowed visually and experientially,” creative director Tal Cooperman told CNBC. “We are in a hyper-visual society that has created even more interest in art.”

Perhaps these new galleries align with broader casino design trends. Until recent decades, the biggest name in casino design psychology was Bill Friedman, which studied dozens of Nevada casinos to determine what drives people to spend money. His conclusion: Low ceilings and labyrinthine layouts beat the lavish decor, and the exclusive design goal should be to place the slot machines front and center. As Friedman told the New Yorker‘s Jonah Lehrer in 2012, casinos should attract people and keep them from leaving.

But these days, casinos have moved towards an opposite philosophy, sometimes dubbed “playground design.” Defended by the designer Roger Thomas, the idea is to surround guests with extravagance and luxury; in these spaces, they are more likely to spend money and take risks.

“[T]The traditional layout makes no sense,” Thomas told the New Yorker. “People don’t want to make bets when they feel trapped, overwhelmed or confused.”

Instead, he argued, “people tend to adopt the characteristics of a room. They feel glamorous in a glamorous space and rich in a rich space.

Surrounding guests with famous artwork might be a step in that direction. For “Beyond van Gogh,” at least, the purpose is very much about how the displays make people feel. Although no original paintings are on display, the exhibition is presented as an “experience”, a chance for visitors to feel immersed in the famous art. (Whether “Beyond van Gogh” and likewise immersive experiences constitute the fine arts another debate entirely.)

“The whole point of such an experience is to bring people in,” Fanny Curtat, the exhibition’s art historian, told AP. “For many people, museums are intimidating. It’s about exploring and having more ways to experience art.

Curtat argues that displaying artwork in casinos will draw audiences in both directions. If casinos can turn players into art lovers, maybe they can turn art lovers into players too.

Beyond van Gogh: the immersive experienceis on view at the Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, through August 28.

Mildred D. Field