UPDATE - NOVEMBER 2002
While I was travelling in Australia in early 2002, I received several email notices from Network Solutions informing me that that the BellagioArtGallery.com domain was due to expire. In order to save money I ignored these notices and pressed on through South East Asia, aiming to deal with the domain renewal on my return to the USA. When, later in 2002 I decided to renew the domain, I found, in a marvelous twist of subversive irony, that it had been snapped up by Club Dice Casino!
As for the "real" Bellagio Art Gallery, it continues to host travelling exhibitions - the latest offering is "Fabergé - Treasures from the Kremlin". Kremlin Casino - it's only a matter of time. And what of Steve Wynn and his art collection? Thirteen paintings are on view at his headquarters on the Strip. The entry fee is $10, which at 77c per painting makes it probably the most expensive art gallery in the world. Perhaps that's how he's aiming to fund the construction of his latest megaproject the $1.8 billion Le Rêve (named after a Picasso in his collection), which will be built on the site of the recently demolished Desert Inn. Capitalism stops at nothing.
TWCDC's Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art now resides at TWCDC.com/Bellagio as a record of a project that changed the face of Las Vegas for ever.
PRELUDE TO THE SATIRE
The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in the Bellagio Casino, Las Vegas houses the art collection of Mr. Stephen A. Wynn, the Chairman and CEO of Mirage Resorts, Inc., owners of the Bellagio Casino. The art collection is one of the world's largest private collections of modern art. This Bellagio Art Gallery web site is an enhanced version of the "official" web site of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art as it was in mid May 2000.
THEMES OF THE SATIRE
The enhanced web site was constructed by the artists group Together We Can Defeat Capitalism. In summary, the web site aims to:
The group aims to achieve these aims by ridiculing the Bellagio Casino; ironically inserting artworks questioning capitalism into the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art and posing Mr. Wynn in front of them. By inserting their own artwork into the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art they illustrate their hate/love relationship with the commidity-spectacle economy. There are even rumors that they have partied and gambled in the Bellagio itself! Shame on them, or is it all winnings to the defeat of capitalism?
COMPOSING THE SATIRE
Together We Can Defeat Capitalism constructed the Bellagio Art Gallery web site by purchasing the domain name BellagioArtGallery.com, copying parts of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art's web site, enhancing them and publishing them on the internet under the BellagioArtGallery domain name. In this way the group's project subverts and satirizes corporate space by using the corporate voice to question its own existence.
Throughout construction of the enhanced site, the aim was to maintain the functionality of the existing site, for example, by maintaining links back to the Bellagio Casino web site. There was no intent to directly affect the Bellagio's Casino business operations.
The site went live on March 17, 2000.
RESPONSES TO THE SATIRE
Under a threat of legal action from Mirage Resorts, Inc. (based on copyright and trademark infringement, and defamation of the Bellagio name and that of Mr. Wynn) BellagioArtGallery.com was removed from the internet on May 22, 2000. Here is the cease and desist letter from Quirk Tratos, Bellagio's legal counsel. According to our web logs, during the site's two months of operation in its original form, there were approximately 3000 visits to the site.
Although the intention was for the web site to be fairly obviously a satire (as if Mr. Wynn would collect artworks questioning capitalism and elevate them to the same level as his Monets!), most people appear to have taken the site to be "reality". Emailed responses included an art critic in New York requesting press passes for the Together We Can Defeat Capitalism exhibition at the Bellagio, a professor of art history taking exception to an art show about capitalism in a casino, and a reporter for a Las Vegas newspaper requesting an interview for the business section (nothing was ever printed). Was the satire aimed too low under the radar? Or, has the critique of capitalism become just another artistic strategy?
THE RESURGENCE OF THE SATIRE
The BellagioArtGallery web site was republished on the internet with this text on May 28, 2000. The text was included on the advice of legal counsel to make it more clear to visitors that the site is a satire, and therefore make the site more concretely legal under the parody exemption of the intellectual property laws. Adding this clarification also has the advantage of documenting the background, purpose and effect of the satire for visitors, but has the disadvantage that now the weight of the Bellagio name is not fully behind the capitalist polemic included on the site, and it is all a little too obvious.
Together We Can Defeat Capitalism believe that in this age of corporate domination, particularly of the media, the truth can often only be revealed to people by "tricking" them into it; by turning the voice of power against itself in a jujitsu throw. Some would call this hacking, Together We Can Defeat Capitalism call it one of the few hopes we have left to progress beyond the grasp of capitalism.
CODA TO THE SATIRE
The "real" Bellagio Gallery closed its doors to the public on Sunday May 28, 2000 just days before MGM Grand finalized its $6.7 billion buyout of Mirage Resorts, owners of the Bellagio Casino. The story is on the Las Vegas Review Journal web site. MGM plans to re-open the gallery for traveling exhibitions, so Together We Can Defeat Capitalism may yet realize its dream of an exhibition in the Bellagio.
Ironically, in the meantime, the www.BellagioArtGallery.com web site is now the only trace left of the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art; the only record on the internet of its previous incarnation; a distorted archive, but perhaps in some way truer than the original. What will MGM make of it?
Comments or questions regarding this website email andycox@TWCDC.com