Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vdara, The Opening Night

[Correction: That really is a Rauschenberg. It's on loan from Bellagio. I guess it wasn't part of the $40m acquisition, so it wasn't promoted. I stand corrected.]

I don't know how to gracefully swing from something as grave as dozens of colleagues becoming unemployed to this, but CityCenter's openings remain the most significant story in Las Vegas this year -- yes, it's bigger than the Ensign follies and more locally significant than anything Harry Reid may do in DC -- and I've got to continue to document it.

So...those lovelies above were models hired by CityCenter and party sponsor Vanity Fair to offer peeks of their cleavage at the soiree throughout the first floor of Vdara, which opened officially. I must admit that it was tickling to finally be able to turn right off the Strip onto Harmon Avenue and drive up under the Nancy Rubins boat sculpture. I just love that piece so much.

After that, though, HOLY CRAPOLINA, People! You WILL be confused about where to drive. I think I had to go around twice and find the right turn to get to Vdara valet. As I wrote in my post after my first tour, the place has a feel of a very modern-looking airport terminal in that respect. MAJOR troubles ahead in terms of confused motorists. And the entire place will snarl when there are serious accidents. Yikes.

I'm not as good at writing up design and interior descriptions as Chuck from VegasTripping.Com or Hunter from RateVegas.Com, but I got here first, so I'll give it my best shot.

Vdara's first floor -- haven't seen the rooms yet -- could easily be that of a Grand Hyatt or another upper-middle-end hotel. There's a bar, one restaurant, some sitting areas and some convention space tucked in one side. It's intended as a hotel-condo but, of course, there's no grocery store or small convenience store that I could see. Where do they think people who might live there would get their sundries? Baffling.

There is a definitive 1970s-ish vibe in the decor, which is headlined by this Frank Stella piece behind registration. I recall in the 1970s as a boy on Long Island, my dad's printing company office was adorned with reproductions of similar colorful-shape pieces like this:

I was happy to see some substantial carpeting on the lobby. It is my biggest worry about what I've seen of Aria so far, that they've got these huge wide-open spaces and lots of hard surfaces and nothing to absorb noise or make walking less punishing.

The restaurant, Silk Road, follows through with this using something I haven't seen anyone EVER use in Vegas: Wallpaper. And shiny, busy wallpaper at that. Here's the inside and out of it:

I actually liked the wallpaper and totally loved the big bottle installation over the bar. It reminded me of my mother's kitchen as a boy, where the wallpaper was so intense that I could sit there for hours working out shapes and stuff. Sad, but I found that fun.

Back in the lobby, Bar Vdara is very cool. It may be that I just finished cooking Thanksgiving dinner and using my food-processor slicer, but I think of uncooked potato chips when I see this fixture:

There were two things in the lobby that were totally out of place. This...

...reproduction of a 1999 Rauschenberg is one. It must be a repro or Team CityCenter Art would've made it well known that they had one. If you're going to use random pieces in and among the headliners like Rubins and Stella and you want visitors to realize that Stella is REAL, maybe go with UNKNOWN or up-and-coming artists for random spots like this?

The other thing was this:

It was some sort of video display of information about Sebastian Copeland, a photographer-adventurer. I couldn't tell if it was there just because Copeland was one of the headliners for the party or if it would be there permanently. Either way, it was ineffective. It was an ugly bunch of screens in the middle of a very lovely space and nobody paid any attention to it. [UPDATE: They're temporary, CityCenter PR peeps say. Good. They're dumb.]

Vdara's lobby has the single most interesting piece of artwork (to me) in the whole $40 million collection, twin wall installations by the elevator banks, one of which is this:

See that? Small slits of paper stacked up make that design. When I brought it up to Hunter Hillegas in the car last month on our way to dinner, he actually bounced up and down with glee over how cool it is. It's by Peter Wegner, a name you should know. Here's a terrific written Q-and-A from KQED, an NPR station.

Also cool was how this outdoor podium/sign becomes a couch at Silk Road...

...and the view of the Rubins from inside.

When you go left from the registration desk, you come to a path with this baubly light fixture...

...that leads to a space outside of the ballrooms of the convention area. Here's one of those rooms -- I didn't go inside, sorry -- named for Rafael Vinoly, the architect of Vdara.

In that ballroom lobby area was this pretty cool lighted installation:

It was a nice enough party. Silk Road served up these drinks...

...and by the convention area was this bar serving fancy champagne.

Waiters circulated with flutes of champagne or...glasses of water. I'd never actually seen that before, people walking around a reception with trays of water. Have you?

The food was minimal. Actually, it was hidden in the convention area in such a way that most people at the other end of the event had no idea it was there. There was a bar of little sweets:

Those tree branches sport chocolate-dipped strawberries. The middle photo were trays of marshmallowy things.

Finally, I saw something I hadn't realized was there as I was driving out. Uh, once I figured out how to get out, that is. Planet Hollywood has erected this gigantic...

...lighted screen. I don't recall that being there before, but it will greet everyone who exits CityCenter from the Strip and walks across the pedestrian bridge. I was driving when I shot this, so I apologize for its lack of clarity.

It reminds me of what Steve Wynn once told me when he built that mountain: "A carnival's great, but you can only control your section of the midway." I doubt Jim Murren will be sending Robert Earl any bouquets for that eyesore.


kage said...

Displayed within Vdara’s intimate lobby and on loan from Bellagio, LLC is “Lucky Dream,’ a breathtaking masterpiece by Robert Rauschenberg, “Lucky Dream” 1999. A vegetable dye transfer on polylaminate, “Lucky Dream” measures 8.5 x 14 feet and features found images such as a trophy, Asian cranes and tigers and the Sistine Chapel

Michael (@jinxclev) said...

Great write up love the photos capturing the art. Appreciate the perspective on it. One interesting thing I found on the PH big screen, they are running Frank Caliendo ads for Monte Carlo, which I thought was a little weird. Although I wonder how long that will last if HET does in fact takeover.

Anonymous said...

Nice article, but holy crap are your pictures blurry. I'm guessing you shot them with a cell phone.

J.T. said...

I hope those hours spent studying the wallpaper were spread out over the course of, say, 10 years. Granted, I could spend hours studying the contours of Beyoncé... but obviously that's an entirely different situation.


Anon - I know. I'm sorry. For whatever reason I didn't bring my real camera. I will tonight for the big Mandarin event.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Murren was appeased when Earl started running big-ass ads for Frank Caliendo's Monte Carlo show.

Vdara = a Grand Hyattt? Ouch! That may be the diss of death. And, yes, the absence from CityCenter of the essentials that make a city (like supermarkets, gas stations, etc.) is a puzzler.

I like how the pattern of the Stella in Vdara's lobby is picked up in the carpeting, too, making the painting even more of a focal point. Few people not named Steve Wynn or Roger Thomas tend to think those things through. And the shiny Silk Road wallpaper reminds me of the charmingly anachronistic set designs in "The Abominable Doctor Phibes," of all things.

David McKee