Assessing the legacy of casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who died on January 11, reveals a man of contradictions. Here was a man who pulled no punches as a businessman, was proudly transparent about the largesse he bestowed upon numerous conservative figures (especially Donald Trump), and fought against popular institutions such as legal marijuana and labor unions. But — credit where it’s due — Adelson ensured his workers were paid and insured during the pandemic, and his early emphasis on Las Vegas conventions and corporate events would eventually be adopted throughout the tourist corridor — with an economic impact in the billions.
And then there are his easily overlooked contributions to Las Vegas’ cultural landscape. Adelson likely handed off most of the curation of his properties’ non-gaming offerings to various executives. But the Venetian and Palazzo would not have been so aggressive in attracting patrons without his sign-offs and seemingly boundless wealth. Here’s a list of notable arts and entertainment attractions that Las Vegas enjoyed thanks to the late magnate’s influence and investment.
Art: It’s hard to imagine Las Vegas topping the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s list of expansion cities. But in October 2001, the Venetian debuted a 63,700-square-foot big-box Guggenheim museum, followed by the complementary 7,660-square-foot Guggenheim Hermitage Museum — a twin-arrow shot across the Strip toward the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. “Evolution is what a place like Las Vegas is all about,” said Adelson at the time, probably not presaging that one exhibit of homoerotic photographs by controversial artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Sadly, the bigger Guggenheim only lasted 15 months, and the Hermitage locked its own doors five years later. Alas, museum-caliber exhibitions didn’t disappear completely; the satisfactory Rolling Stones-themed show Exhibitionism held court in 2017-2018.
Dining: The Venetian and Palazzo have long boasted a murderer’s row of restaurants,