The Palms Remakes Itself as a Contemporary Art-Filled Sin City Palace

A Damien Hirst–designed bar serves as the seriously stylish anchor of the casino and resort’s $620 million renovation.

Palms Damien Hirst

The mega-resorts and glittering casinos that line the Las Vegas Strip have always been palaces to hedonism—places where high rollers indulge in just about any vice. But what they haven’t been, at least until a recent wave of splashy new openings and renovations, is cool. But now, the city appears to be ramping up to shed its gaudy reputation, remaking itself for a new generation of in-crowd revelers.

This year, old guard properties like Caesars Palace have debuted fresh, thoroughly over-the-top new Villas, and tired properties like the Monte Carlo have given way to the stylish new Sydell Group–led Park MGM—which is set to open an outpost of the creative set’s favorite NoMad Hotel this fall. The latest resort to shake off its old image is the Palms, unveiling the much-anticipated first phase of its $620 million, top-to-bottom makeover this week.

Though the all-new casino floor, swanky rooftop lounge, and three celebrity-chef­-led restaurants debuting at the nearly 20-year-old property are certainly buzzworthy, the resort’s new crown jewel is its sweeping collection of blue-chip contemporary art. The wide-reaching collection is anchored by the Unknown Bar—a cocktail-lounge-turned-immersive-art-experience brought to life by Damien Hirst. Set just off the resort’s entrance, the arresting space is dominated by the three floating sections of tiger shark that make up the British artist’s famous 1999 sculpture Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded). Nine of his famous Spot paintings surround the otherworldly piece, a motif that has been replicated in details as small as the bar’s cotton napkins, coasters, and cocktail stir sticks—all of which have also been designed by Hirst.

This focus on art extends throughout the property, with dramatic, Instagram-worthy pieces by established and emerging artists (think Basquiat and Dustin Yellin) located everywhere from the casino’s tables and chips to the walls behind the cashier and lobby. In the resort’s new flagship restaurant—Scotch 80 Prime—pieces by Andy Warhol, Hirst, and Kaws complement a menu of certified Kobe beef imported from Japan and a scotch collection that runs $3 million deep and includes bottles dating to 1937. By the end of the year, the property will also debut restaurants from James Beard Award–winning chefs Michael Symon, Michael Vetri, and Bobby Flay.

The full renovation of the resort’s Fantasy Tower will also debut by the end of the year, having received a chic and equally art-filled update from Avenue Interior Design. The Los Angeles–based firm has taken a minimalist-inspired approach to the guest rooms, outfitting them in clean lines and neutral tones, and has dialed up the opulence factor in the suites, offsetting richly layered textures with refined paneled walls and plush floor-to-ceiling headboards. Meanwhile, Bentel & Bentel have been tapped to reimagine the tower’s six Sky Villas. And while design details are still currently under wraps, we’d be willing to bet that they will be worthy rivals to the top-of-the-line penthouses that crown the Strip’s party palaces.

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