Visual Art The Best Museum in America
posted by October 20 at 15:00 PMon
Two facts: MOHAI is moving. And there is a museum in Las Vegas that’s the art equivalent of S&M cuisine, where you are basically punished rather than served.
Erin Langner says these two dots should be connected. She wonders, in this essay on the Neon Museum in Las Vegas, whether you wouldn’t like to suffer just a little more for your art.
The Neon Museum is not accessible. I learned of it on a blog, followed a link to the museum’s website, and found that registering for a tour in advance is mandatory; this became clear after I realized the address for this place was not posted anywhere on its website. Once in Vegas, I gave the cab driver the address. He started on his way toward downtown with confidence but soon began corresponding back and forth with dispatch, trying to determine a landmark near the museum. After a long pause from dispatch, the driver said he thought he knew where it might be and pulled onto the highway. Fifteen minutes later, I was dropped off at an empty intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Before me was the museum: two sandlots surrounded by a chain-link fence. A tour guide waited across the street from the museum, offering everyone water and an umbrella. No one took him up on it. The group stopped in front of a gate wrapped in a massive knot of chains and Master Locks. The neon signs protruded from behind the fence—the head of a king, a pool player bending forward, horseshoe arches, dollar signs—invading the otherwise barren downtown landscape.
The guide congratulated anyone wearing closed-toe shoes in anticipation of the broken glass and metal throughout the grounds. He mentioned the occasion when a visitor left requiring five stitches, having backed into a piece in the collection while trying to take a photograph. As we stood listening in the shade of the only tree in sight, the error in the group’s collective refusal of the umbrella and water became apparent; everyone was already drenched in sweat.
The nickname of this place is the Boneyard.
For more of Langner’s writing, check her blog Peripheral Vision, on which she recently compared Jeremy Shaw’s intense video of a fight in the middle of a mob at Seattle Art Museum with Suzanne Opton’s censored photographs of American soldiers’ faces lying down.