Vegas neophytes could be excused for imagining the city as a desert playground devoid of culture, but more frequent visitors know that’s far from the truth. And though it may remain unbeknownst to many, much of the art in Las Vegas has a distinctly queer bent.
The LGBTQ+ influence is particularly strong in the newest exhibit at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art at the upscale Bellagio resort. “In Bloom” runs through September 10 and is a celebration of spring and rebirth by queer artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, Nick Cave, Salvador Dalí, and Martine Gutierrez. The vibrant and striking photos from 33-year-old Gutierrez, a trans and Indigenous visual and performance artist, make her the star of “In Bloom.” Her 2018 work, “The Flower Prince,” depicts Gutierrez as a personification of an Aztec deity of fertility and pleasure, flipping the script on typical trans narratives.
Works from trans artist Martine Gutierrez are highlights of “In Bloom” at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine ArtPHOTOS BY MGM RESORTS INTERNATIONAL BGFA
Thoughtful artwork adorns the walls, lobbies, and porte-cocheres of the Bellagio and neighbors the Aria and Park MGM. Last year, MGM Resorts, the parent company of the three properties, acquired notable new inclusive works. Don’t miss “The Cook Out” by Jonathan Lyndon Chase, a Philadelphia-based Black queer artist, when hitting up Park MGM to peruse the Haus of Gaga exhibit.
Culture vultures of old Vegas lore should head to the Neon Museum for its collection of restored and brightly lit signage, some towering hundreds of feet in the air. The walking tour includes a stop at the remnants of the Red Barn, which was originally converted from a furniture store into a furtive queer space financed by the mob. Once the city’s oldest gay bar, the long-defunct Red Barn is now consigned to history tours. The Neon Museum recently opened Brilliant!, an immersive experience adjacent to the original museum featuring a light show with music from Elvis and Liberace.
The Neon Museum lovingly restored signage from Red Barn, Las Vegas’s first gay barPHOTO COURTESY NEON MUSEUM
While Mr. Showmanship and the Vegas icons Siegfried and Roy were forced to live deeply closeted, “don’t ask, don’t tell” existences, the Neon Museum’s most recent artist in residence, Thomas Putzier, thankfully lives in a more enlightened time and is free to discuss the influence of his queer identity on his art. His work was recently displayed at the English Hotel in downtown Las Vegas.
This article first appeared in the Out Traveler section of May/June print edition of Out magazine.