Butterflies scattered on floors and furnishings, pills and capsules as decorations for wallpaper, or placed in showcases, a skull etched into the wall, zircons under glass, sharks in formaldehyde. The clues are obvious, and lead straight to Damien Hirst. Not in a contemporary art gallery, but in one of the Sky Villas recently opened in the updated Palms Casino Resorts on the Strip in Las Vegas, a private setting (though no longer the only one of its kind) for the display of contemporary art.
In the Empathy Suite, for 100,000 dollars a night (for a minimum of two) you can literally live inside ‘a Damien Hirst.’ The suite of over 800 square meters on two levels not only contains six works by the British celebrity; it has been entirely designed by the artist as an ‘inhabitable summation’ of his oeuvre, done in collaboration with the architects Bentel & Bentel, in charge of the restyling of the six Sky Villas of the iconic hotel, by order of the brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta.
Entrepreneurs and art collectors, the new owners of the Palms have invested 690 million dollars in the total transformation of the property over the last two years, making contemporary one of the key features of the new facility, with pieces – apart from Damien Hirst – by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Adam Parker Smith, Revok, Eric Haze, Scott Hove, Felipe Pantone, James Jean and Timothy Curtis, Dustin Yellin, Takashi Murakami, KAWS.
In the various rooms of the Empathy Suite, which offers guests two master bedrooms, a cantilevered swimming pool with a furnished outdoor area, various lounge zones, a bar for 17 people, a dining room for 8, massage rooms, a fitness room, a screening room and more, six large creations by Hirst have been made for the occasion.
Here for a Good Time, Not a Long Time (2018), two sharks suspended over the bar, Vegas (2018), The Winner Takes It All (2018) and Money (2018), three different vitrines for pharmaceuticals, Winner/Loser, two more sharks in formaldehyde closed in a white case built into a wall, and Casino Royal (2018), a series of panels with butterflies on a monochrome background.
Furthermore, Hirst has scattered traces everywhere, from furniture to fabrics, wallcoverings to columns and the floors of the pool area, surfaces to upholstery. In search of premium empathy – the world’s biggest price tag for a hotel suite.
Photo credit: Clint Jenkins