Wynn plans show of masterpieces

Hotelier-cum-arts collector Steve Wynn said Thursday he would unveil on Nov. 13 "The Wynn Collection" of 11 masterpieces, including Picasso's "Le Reve" (The Dream), from which his new resort hotel on the Strip will take its name.

"The Dream," a brightly colored portrait of Picasso mistress Marie-Therese Walter, was painted in 1932 and is considered Picasso's most important work during that period. Wynn said he purchased it in June from its undisclosed European owner, who bought it at a Christie's auction in New York in 1997 for $44 million. Wynn would not give the purchase price.

"Nobody owns this stuff," Wynn said. "You just have custody. The pictures are bigger than us and we're just the guardians. You can't say 'mine' like you do your house or land. But I get to hold them." Wynn introduced the idea of displaying masterpiece-level art in Las Vegas with his Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, when he opened the $1.6-billion Bellagio hotel in 1998. When he sold it and other Mirage Resorts hotels last year to MGM Grand, he kept works in his personal collection and has since bought additional works.

His new art gallery will be temporarily situated within a structure that he is preserving at the old Desert Inn hotel, which he purchased last year. His new hotel and casino, now under construction at that site, is set to open in 2004.

In addition to "The Dream," Wynn will display two other paintings new to his collection: Amedeo Modigliani's 1917 "Nu Couche" and Henri Matisse's 1940 "La Robe Persane." Other works in the collection were previously displayed at the Bellagio, including Matisse's "Pineapple and Anemones" and Van Gogh's "Portrait of a Peasant Girl in a Straw Hat."

"These are extremely important paintings, and it's incredibly exciting to know that even though they are in a private collection, they'll be available for public viewing," said Libby Lumpkin, who was curator of Wynn's Bellagio gallery.