Friday, Feb. 10, 2006 | 12:32 p.m.
Art critics could note that the eight Peter Paul Rubens paintings on display at Las Vegas' Guggenhiem Hermitage museum hardly comprise the largest exhibit of works by the 17th century Flemish artist.
But imagine: Rubens on display in Las Vegas - a place not typically known for fine art museums. It's an image that's certain to change with exhibits such as this most current one featuring the Baroque-era works of one of the great masters.
Rubens' scantily draped women, who are excessively voluptuous by showgirl standards, still would seem to fit right in with Sin City's promotion of bare skin. But the exhibit that opened Monday also showcases the artist's intensely political side.
Elizabeth Herridge, Guggenheim Hermitage's director, said in a Las Vegas Sun story earlier this week, "Rubens was not picked because of this unfortunate moniker we enjoy of 'Sin City.' He was a very political guy. He had a career as a diplomat as well as an artist ... Throughout his life, there is always this great sense of politics."
The exhibit includes works by one of Rubens' pupils and a display of items Rubens collected in his travels. It does not include such famous works as his "Massacre of the Innocents" or "Samson and Delilah," which could lead the harshest critics to say Las Vegas received only scraps from Rubens' generous feast.
But it wasn't until very recently that Las Vegas was even invited to sit at the fine arts table. And such exhibits as this one show the community is capable of expanding its intellectual fare.