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11 only-in-Vegas art sights, from Banksy and Basquiat to ‘Mantis’ and ‘Meerkat’

“Seven Magic Mountains”
“Seven Magic Mountains” by Ugo Rondinone is just south of Las Vegas near Jean Dry Lake.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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Las Vegas is a city of the big: big wins, big losses, big portions, big hotels. Should we be surprised that the city’s public art goes big too, whether it’s a 21-story Shepard Fairey mural or a 13-foot-long Damien Hirst shark?

When your gambling game is off, get your culture on with Las Vegas’ art. A great place to start is downtown, which since 2013 has held an annual music and art festival called Life Is Beautiful, which brought a colorful slew of murals, sculptures and installations on and around Fremont Street year-round.

Here are more 11 very Vegas art sights:

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“Bliss Dance” by Marco Cochrane
“Bliss Dance” by Marco Cochrane
“Bliss Dance” by Marco Cochrane at The Park.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

This stunning 40-foot-tall statue of a woman dancing with unselfconscious abandon is particularly breathtaking lighted up at night. Cochrane originally created “Bliss Dance” for Burning Man; you can view it from a variety of directions for vastly different perspectives of the woman’s movements.

6 Park Ave., midway between South Las Vegas Boulevard and Frank Sinatra Drive.

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“The Mantis” by Kirk Jellum
“The Mantis” by Kirk Jellum
“The Mantis” by Kirk Jellum at Downtown Container Park.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

A 40-foot-tall metal sculpture of a praying mantis is mounted on a dump truck, which is capable of shooting fire from its antennae and blasting music from internal speakers. Jellum, an aerospace engineer turned metal-art sculptor, created the piece as a gift to his wife for their first wedding anniversary. Every day at sundown, the mantis is awakened by a drum circle.

707 Fremont St., at the entrance of Downtown Container Park

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“The Love Locket” by Nova May
“The Love Locket” by Nova May
“The Love Locket” by artist Nova May at Downtown Container Park.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

This ode to love asks passersby to attach their own heartfelt pieces of art — personalized locks or other metal mementos of love — to its heart-shaped body.

707 Fremont St., next to the Mantis at the entrance of Downtown Container Park

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“Big Rig Jig” by Mike Ross
“Big Rig Jig” by Mike Ross
“Big Rig Jig” by Mike Ross at Fergusons Downtown.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

It’s an acrobatic work of art that stands 50 feet tall and weighs 25 tons. Made of two 18-wheel tanker trucks locked in a gravity-defying dance, “Big Rig Jig” premiered at Burning Man in 2007 and made a cameo appearance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival the following year.

Fergusons Motel, Fremont Street and 11th Street downtown.

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“Peace” by D*Face
“Peace” by D*Face
“Peace” by D*Face on the side of Western Hotel.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The British street artist (real name Dean Stockton) created this compelling mural of a golden gun with its muzzle twisted to form the word “peace.” It was part of the 2015 Life Is Beautiful festival.

899 Fremont St., on the side of the Western Hotel and Casino downtown

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“Meerkat” by Bordalo II
“Meerkat” by Bordalo II
“Meerkat” by Bordalo II.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

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The Portuguese street artist created this installation from found materials and salvaged city trash. It depicts meerkats assembled next to an abandoned blue bus.

On the north side of Fremont Street just east of North 8th Street downtown.

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“Cultivate Harmony” by Shepard Fairey
“Cultivate Harmony” by Shepard Fairey
“Cultivate Harmony” by Shepard Fairey at the Plaza Hotel.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Perhaps the largest public mural in the city, this work by one of the world’s most famous street artists spans 21 stories of the Plaza Hotel and Casino and is meant to remind viewers of the power of peace and harmony when it comes to sustaining ourselves and the planet.

1 N. Main St.

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The Palms Casino Resort
Damien Hirst art at the Palms
“Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded)” by Damien Hirst inside the Palms Hotel and Casino.
(Clint Jenkins)

Palms owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta are serious about art. Wander the casino and its restaurants and you will stumble on world-class art by big names. British artist Damien Hirst’s 1999 sculpture “The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded),” which features a nearly 13-foot-long tiger shark sliced into three parts, is mounted above the Unknown Bar; and paintings by Hirst and Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami watch each other from opposite walls just off the lobby. You can find a Banksy in the Greene St. Kitchen and work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Jenny Boot and Crash inside the tony Scotch 80 Prime steakhouse.

4321 W. Flamingo Road

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“LGBT Mural” by Grace Ann Morgan and Lois Dohra
“LGBT Mural” by Grace Ann Morgan and Lois Dohra
“LGBT Mural” by Grace Ann Morgan and Lois Dohra, created in 2005.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Street art and graffiti can be seen on many walls and alleys of the funky Arts District, but be sure to catch this nearly 15-year-old community mural dedicated to solidarity and pride. Bright pink and lavender figures dance as one on a wall near the former Snick’s Place, often credited as the first gay bar in town.

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South Third Street and East Imperial Avenue

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“Big Edge” by Nancy Rubin
“Big Edge” by Nancy Rubin
“Big Edge” by Nancy Rubin at CityCenter.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a flower, it’s a plane, it’s 200 aluminum boats pieced together to resemble a massive bouquet in one of the city’s most eye-catching sculptures.

CityCenter, 2600 W. Harmon Ave.

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“Seven Magic Mountains” by Ugo Rondinone
“Seven Magic Mountains” by Ugo Rondinone
“Seven Magic Mountains” by Ugo Rondinone.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The large-scale installation features seven stacked towers of boulders painted electric colors, rising 30 feet above the desert floor. Since it was erected in 2016, it has come to serve as a welcome along Interstate 15 as visitors approach Las Vegas.

Approximately 10 miles south of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, Nev. Directions here.

A cave with emerald water. A ghost town that once was submerged. A gold mine tour. A desert winery. Sure, it’s all fun and games in Vegas, but day trips promise a change of pace.

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“Dream Machine” by Wayne Littlejohn
“Dream Machine” by Wayne Littlejohn
The 26-foot-tall “Dream Machine” by local artist Wayne Littlejohn at Siegfried & Roy Park near McCarran International Airport.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The towering, twisting silver-and-blue sculpture of stainless steel, brass, copper and aluminum resembles a mushroom cloud or a UFO. Commissioned by Clark County’s public art program, the 26-foot-tall piece was erected in 2016 and challenges viewers’ imaginations to contemplate the vivid history of atomic testing in this grand desert landscape.

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Siegfried and Roy Park, 5501 S. Maryland Pkwy.


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If it’s entertaining, Jessica Gelt has likely covered it. Since joining the Los Angeles Times in 2003, she has written about television, music, movies, books, art, fashion, food, cocktails and more. She once played bass in a band with an inexplicably large following in Spain, and still gets stopped by fans (OK, maybe a fan) on the streets of Barcelona. She loves dive bars and very dry martinis with olives, though never simultaneously.