THE FAB­U­LOUS ART COL­LEC­TION OF WYNN PALACE

The pub­lic art col­lec­tion of Wynn Palace rep­re­sents a vi­tal vis­ual con­ver­sa­tion be­tween East and West that spans cen­turies.

Wynn Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - by An­drea Bennett

Iis an an­tique lac­quer screen that an­chors the lobby of the busi­ness cen­ter in Wynn Palace. The sin­gle Can­tonese eight-panel screen is an ex­cep­tional ex­am­ple of Chi­nese ex­port art, circa 1820. Many lay­ers of lac­quer were ap­plied onto wood to create the glossy black sur­face on which hand-painted, gilded scenes de­pict the ex­otic pago­das, plea­sure gar­dens, and boats of courtly life. In fact, much of the ba­sis for the de­sign of Wynn Palace, as well as the fine art col­lec­tion it holds, is the tra­di­tion of chi­nois­erie, says Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent of De­sign for Wynn De­sign & De­vel­op­ment Roger Thomas. “When the tra­di­tion of chi­nois­erie first be­gan, there was very lit­tle un­der­stand­ing—other than limited phys­i­cal con­tact—be­tween East and West,” he says. “But we now have ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­cess, n 1684, a Bel­gian Je­suit mis­sion­ary, Père Cou­plet, trav­eled to France from his mis­sion in China, bring­ing with him a young Chi­nese con­vert—and at­tract­ing so much at­ten­tion that the ex­otic trav­el­ers gained an au­di­ence with Louis XIV at Ver­sailles. Two years later, a del­e­ga­tion of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Siam ( now Thai­land) ar­rived at the court, bring­ing with them lac­quer, ce­ram­ics, porce­lain, and silks, in a visit that Charissa Bre­mer-david, cu­ra­tor of sculp­ture and dec­o­ra­tive arts at the J. Paul Getty Mu­seum in Los An­ge­les, de­scribes as a sig­nif­i­cant am­bas­sado­rial voy­age that took them to the Beau­vais man­u­fac­tory, an en­ter­prise roughly 40 miles north of Paris that pro­duced in­tri­cate wo­ven ta­pes­tries for the wealthy bour­geoisie and French no­bil­ity. “You can imag­ine that East-west con­tact was chal­lenged by dis­tances and travel and how to com­mu­ni­cate,” Bre­mer-david says. “But there were these piv­otal en­coun­ters that cap­tured their imag­i­na­tion. It is likely these piv­otal in-per­son meet­ings at the court of Ver­sailles partly in­spired the pro­duc­tion of a se­ries of Beau­vais ta­pes­tries called The Story of the Em­peror of China, based on nine sto­ries thought to be about the Chi­nese Em­peror K’ang Hsi, who reigned from 1661 to 1722. En­ter The Chair­man’s Club at Wynn Palace, and you will see one of these scenes, The Au­di­ence of the Em­peror, an 11-foot-high ta­pes­try hung on a golden wall that is a fan­ci­ful de­pic­tion of the em­peror un­der a fes­tooned pav­il­ion. An­other, The Har­vest­ing of Pineap­ples, an­chors a cor­ri­dor in Wing Lei Palace restau­rant, in which work­ers gather pineap­ples un­der a tall ba­nana tree as a woman (pos­si­bly the em­press) ges­tures to view­ers to look be­yond the fan she holds to­ward pago­das in the dis­tance. Many de­tails about these ta­pes­tries will never be known. “What were the crit­i­cal points of con­tact? Who gave these books to the Beau­vais man­u­fac­tory? Who ad­vised the artist that the em­peror should be wear­ing this very cap? It doesn’t look like the Ming equiv­a­lent pre­cisely, be­cause the poor artist never went to China,” notes Bre­mer-david. The se­ries’ great im­por­tance lies in the fact that the ta­pes­tries are con­sid­ered some of the ear­li­est ex­pres­sions of chi­nois­erie in France. The Western evo­ca­tion of Chi­nese mo­tifs later turned play­ful, given purely dec­o­ra­tive, ro­coco twists. Travel and trade made artis­tic ex­change pos­si­ble dur­ing the 18th cen­tury, and lac­quer­ware—such as items that early Si­amese del­e­ga­tion brought to France—be­came a sig­nif­i­cant im­port to Europe from China. One rare ex­am­ple of this ex­port

Much of the ba­sis of the de­sign of Wynn Palace, as well as the fine art col­lec­tion it holds, is the tra­di­tion of chi­nois­erie.

which al­lows us to rein­ter­pret the idea of chi­nois­erie.” From earnest 17th- and 18th-cen­tury de­pic­tions by French ar­ti­sans of a place they had only read about in books to a con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese sculp­tor play­ing with the global ob­ses­sion with Chi­nese and Amer­i­can coun­ter­feit­ing through mon­u­men­tal “su­per-fake” stain­less-steel stilet­tos, the con­ver­sa­tion be­tween East and West that takes place in art all over Wynn Palace might be de­scribed as post­mod­ern chi­nois­erie: vivid, flo­ral (some­times florid), of­ten provoca­tive, and in to­tal, ex­u­ber­ant. Un­doubt­edly the most fa­mous new res­i­dents of Wynn Palace are the four Buc­cleuch vases, which now greet guests on the West Es­planade. For­merly flank­ing an­other Beau­vais ta­pes­try, The Em­peror on a Jour­ney, in the lobby of Wynn Ma­cau, they made their fi­nal jour­ney on a two-cen­tury voy­age that took them from China to var­i­ous res­i­dences of the dukes of Buc­cleuch (still the largest landown­ers in the United King­dom), and fi­nally repa­tri­ated to Ma­cau by Steve Wynn in 2011. Robert Co­p­ley, Christie’s Deputy Chair­man and In­ter­na­tional Head of the Ex­cep­tional Sale of Dec­o­ra­tive Arts, points to the rar­ity of this quite lit­eral fu­sion of Chi­nese art (in the porce­lain) with Euro­pean (in their gilt or­molu mounts made by Parisian bronziers). Pur­chased dur­ing a pe­riod when so­called “for­eign cu­riosi­ties” from China were wildly pop­u­lar, most of the French ar­ti­sans who crafted the mounts pierced the porce­lain to at­tach them. Un­der­stand­ing the phe­nom­e­nal qual­ity of the porce­lain on the vases pur­chased by the Buc­cleuch fam­ily, how­ever, “The French re­spected the porce­lain enough to leave it in­tact,” Co­p­ley says. Their only known equiv­a­lents were an 1814 com­mis­sion for the Prince Re­gent (Ge­orge, Prince of Wales, later Ge­orge IV) that still re­side in Buck­ing­ham Palace. Although there is, of course, am­ple se­cu­rity in Wynn Palace, Steve Wynn’s phi­los­o­phy about art has al­ways been that it is meant to be shared with ev­ery­body; in fact, his credo oc­cu­pies the front is page of a book about the art in Wynn Las Ve­gas. “You never own any of this stuff; you just have cus­tody. And frankly, that’s enough,” it reads. One of Wynn’s most pub­licly en­joyed pieces has been Tulips, the seven-foot-high rain­bow of translu­cent, shim­mer­ing bal­loon flow­ers by Jeff Koons, which de­buted at the Wynn The­ater Ro­tunda in Wynn Las Ve­gas in 2012 and now seem­ingly floats from the east atrium of Wynn Palace (de­spite its weight of more than three tons of cast stain­less steel). An ex­pres­sion of pure joy, Koons calls the sculp­ture—one in a se­ries of five unique pieces, of which one ver­sion can be seen at the Guggen­heim Mu­seum in Bil­bao, Spain—“a sym­bol of hope and the strength of life’s en­ergy.” Is the sen­ti­ment so dif­fer­ent from the fan­tas­tic, swoop­ing bats on the Buc­cleuch vases’ celadon sur­face—a ho­mo­phone in Chi­nese for a word mean­ing “hap­pi­ness”? Tulips moved from Las Ve­gas at roughly the same time as Am­phora III, a mon­u­men­tal ves­sel by ce­ram­i­cist Vi­ola Frey that once oc­cu­pied the Es­planades at Wynn Las Ve­gas, and now holds court in the Palace. “There is an essence that we all agree to call beauty,” Thomas says. “An ob­ject may not be his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant, or it may not be the size to fit a room. The most im­por­tant ques­tion I ask is, Is its beauty mem­o­rable?” Which is not to say that Thomas steers away from gen­tle, witty provo­ca­tion. Con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese artist Liao Yibai, in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned for his hand-welded, large-scale stain­less-steel Pop art sculp­tures that ex­plore the global ob­ses­sion with lux­ury brands (and the glut of coun­ter­feits) in both Amer­i­can and Chi­nese cul­ture, is rep­re­sented in nine pieces around the re­sort. For in­stance, look for his Fake High Heel Chan­nel X on the main Prom­e­nade near the North Atrium—a per­fectly ren­dered stiletto that also spot­lights the real artistry of both “real” and “fake” lux­ury goods. As you wan­der the re­sort, take spe­cial note of Yibai’s stain­less-steel vases, also from his Fake An­tiques se­ries. Bor­row­ing lib­er­ally from cul­tural trea­sures of the Ming, Qing, and Yuan Dy­nas­ties, he com­bines tra­di­tional lo­tus and dragon mo­tifs with play­ful char­ac­ters wear­ing slip­pers or box­ing gloves, in a se­ries of ir­re­sistible “fakes” that are them­selves valu­able orig­i­nal pieces—and, one could even say, bring the East-west con­ver­sa­tion full cir­cle. “If you base a col­lec­tion on joy and beauty, it tran­scends eth­nic­ity, time, and cul­tural and eco­nomic fac­tors,” Thomas says. “The art is all a beau­ti­ful cel­e­bra­tion of life’s mo­ments, and we hope it pro­duces the same kind of ex­pe­ri­ence that the guests are hav­ing.”

Fake High Heel Chan­nel X (2010) by Liao Yibai.

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