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CityCenter’s art collection was never in doubt, even when it was itself

Nancy Rubins

Steve Marcus

Canoes are kept at the ready as workers install a sculpture by Nancy Rubins at MGM Mirage’s City Center project Thursday.

Updated Tuesday, May 5, 2009 | 6:40 p.m.

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When MGM Mirage and its partner Dubai World almost missed a payment on CityCenter in March, there was concern that the more than $8 billion project would come to a halt.

Jobs would be lost, investors and architects would be angry — and then there was the project’s $40 million art collection. What would happen to the art?

Nothing. The art was paid for, including commissions. At the time, artist Nancy Rubins, who has a high profile sculpture in Harmon Circle — the roundabout in the middle of CityCenter, was on-site with her crew installing the work.

“This has been a commitment from Day One,” says Michele Quinn, who manages CityCenter’s art program. “It hasn’t changed. We were given very good advice from Bobby Baldwin (MGM Mirage’s chief design and construction officer) early on: ‘Spend your money before anyone else does.’

“Even though there was this instability, there was never a question about the arts program. We’re 90 percent there. There’s no reason to turn around now.”

As of now, Rubins has completed “Big Edge.” Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s 19-foot stainless steel and fiberglass “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X” is in storage in Los Angeles after making its trip west from New Jersey, awaiting its move to Las Vegas.

A 36,000-pound Henry Moore sculpture will be placed in an open, landscaped area in June or July, Quinn says.

Other works, such as a piece by Jenny Holzer, are being fabricated. Some are complicated in terms of how they will be integrated in the site, particularly during the flurry of construction. Frank Stella’s “Damascus Gate Variation I,” a 1969 painting that will hang above the reception desk at the Vdara Hotel, will likely be the last work installed, Quinn says.

When the dust settles and CityCenter opens, a single yellow rose by German artist Isa Genzken will jut 24 feet from the ground near the porte cochere for the Harmon. Richard Long’s 80-foot-tall, 50-foot-wide mud drawings will be at Veer Towers. Maya Lin’s 133-foot interpretation of the Colorado River will be at Aria.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected. Since this story first ran, Nancy Rubins has named her massive boat sculpture “Big Edge.” It’s a larger version of her “Big Pleasure Point” in New York.

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