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Project Breakdown: The Palms

Melinda Sheckells • Photography by Clint Jenkins and Brandon Barré • September 10, 2018

Photos: Palms Casino Resort

Being touted as the grandest renovation project in Las Vegas history, the $620 million redo of the roughly 1,400-room Palms Casino Resort touches every inch of the pop culture-driven, multi-tower property, which has been regularly depicted in film and TV for nearly two decades. Despite its notoriety, it’s no easy feat to stand out on the Las Vegas Strip, something Palms creative director Tal Cooperman knew all too well when curating the property’s enviable art collection, many pieces of which are on loan from owners, avid art collectors, and brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta of Station Casinos (now part of Red Rock Resorts). “The artwork that Frank and Lorenzo own people only dream to see, and they want people to see it,” Cooperman says. “That’s what’s so cool about it—this resort is like a museum.”

The gallery-like experience starts at reception, where a playful neon sign saying “Wish You Were Here” from light artist Olivia Steele greets guests with its vibrant pink lettering set against a whimsical skyscape by photographer Keegan Gibbs. From that moment, guests know they’re in for a trippy adventure that celebrates prominent street artists and venerated contemporary ones, most notably Damien Hirst. In fact, the British provocateur is behind the Unknown Bar, his first hospitality project since Pharmacy 2 restaurant at his Newport Street Gallery in 2016. Sitting menacingly above the bar is his famous 13-foot-long tiger shark piece The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded), which is sliced in three parts and preserved in glass and formaldehyde, a stark contrast to the marble bar below. Hirst’s spot painting series flanks the bar and his work covers napkins, matchbooks, coasters, and swizzle sticks—turning his much-lauded pieces into collectible items. “We’ve made sure people know we’re more than just art in a restaurant,” Cooperman explains.

That goes for what he calls “the crown jewel of the property,” Scotch 80 Prime steakhouse, courtesy of local firm Friedmutter Group and Station Casinos’ in-house team. Here, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s tryptich Speaks For Itself mingles with screen prints from Andy Warhol, while the life-size Small Lie cartoon-like sculpture by KAWS stands outside and greets guests. Further into the sprawling casino, the cashier’s cage is adorned with artist Timothy Curtis’ irreverent I Wear My Money on My Face—the 20-foot-long red and pink painting is a composition of faces made of global currency symbols. Meanwhile, famed Taiwanese-American artist James Jean’s Alimental Thread mural in Asian-fusion restaurant Send Noodles is “a beautifully elegant masterpiece,” Cooperman says, wrapped in free-flowing shapes and exaggerated water and flower elements, a nod to his genre-bending style. “It’s unexpected and only upon closer inspection do you realize the level of detail and thoughtfulness that went into creating the mural,” Cooperman explains.

Art also comes into play for Clique Hospitality’s social spaces Apex and Camden, both designed by Toronto powerhouse Studio Munge. The 55th floor indoor-outdoor Apex sits atop the Palms, with panoramic views of the city and a large statement bar trimmed in bronze metal, midnight blue stone, and ombré glass. The avant-garde atmosphere is enhanced by Brooklyn-based artist Dustin Yellin’s Psychogeographies series—humanoid sculptures made of collages of paper from magazines and books, each weighing 3,000 pounds, laid on glass and fused within resin to create a 3D installation.

On the ground level, Camden Cocktail Lounge is “an expression of a classic library, but with a contemporary and lively twist,” firm principal Alessandro Munge says. “As a hidden gem ready to be discovered, I wanted to create an alluring sense of mystery and depth that would energize the Palms’ ground floor.” Take Richard Prince’s cheeky Las Vegas nurse paintings that are enigmatic yet unpretentious, bolstered once again by Steele’s neon light work, which knowingly hovers behind the bar, reading “All I ever wanted was everything.” “It’s an incredible artistic twist on a traditional library bar,” says Clique Hospitality founder Andy Masi.

Works from husband-and-wife duo DabsMyla and Jason Revok are prominently displayed in the six lavish new Sky Villas from New York-based Bentel & Bentel Architects, which feel as if they are dripping in exotic marble. “Art is such an integral part of the Palms experience, we wanted the art in the rooms to not only complement the design of the space, but also to add an energy and sense of place through the various known artists,” Cooperman explains. Guestrooms and various suites from Los Angeles-based Avenue Interior Design, meanwhile, project “a serene quality that is a departure from the other offerings within the city. There is a careful attention to craftsmanship and detail with all of the finishes,” says firm partner Andrea DeRosa, adding that the minibar snacks and intimacy kits are designed by DabsMyla. Pieces from well-known artists, including Sandra Chevrier and Carlos Rolón, elevate rooms from status quo sleeping chambers to something that is “phenomenal and over the top,” adds DeRosa.

Expect more art to inhabit the hotel as it enters the second phase of its renovation. TAO Group is bringing its street art friendly Rockwell Group-designed Vandal restaurant to the hotel next year (as well as a new massive dayclub-nightclub), while Benedict Radcliffe’s neon orange 1984 Lamborghini crafted from thin metal wires will sit outside of the valet. “I think it will become the most photographed thing we have here,” predicts Cooperman.

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