When the Las Vegas Art Museum closed in 2009, many saw it as confirmation that little cultural substance lay beneath the city’s glitz. It was a more personal affair for Patrick Duffy—the president of the museum board had given the museum most of his collection.
But Duffy was hardly a pessimist. The closing of the museum was a chance to “shake out the rug,” to rethink whether the city needs an art museum and what it should look like. The old space, at the Sahara West Library, was serviceable but far from the center of town. Duffy has been quietly working on a plan to bring the Las Vegas Art Museum—in some form—to the UNLV campus. “We’ll see a relationship blossom in early 2011,” he says.
Although some may wish for a shiny new building downtown, a move to the university could shore up the museum long term and provide residents a central location. “Are we a city that can appreciate visual fine art? Have we survived? I’d say yes, we have.” (Currently, the museum’s collection is in storage. Will the works in Duffy’s home be part of the new museum? It depends on where—and if—the new museum space comes together.)
The 51-year-old executive at Diamond Resorts International has been collecting art for 21 years, along with his late partner, Wally Goodman. Their collection consists of about 250 works. Artists in the collection range from heavyweights such as Paul Klee and Willem de Kooning to American pop artist Jim Dine.
Duffy loves “the sharing of the work. Just having people over who are interested in art and the dialogue that goes with it.” There’s art in every room of his three-floor Summerlin townhome, on every wall and crowding the stairwell. It is, in fact, a sumptuous little museum. All he needs is a map. There’s no rhyme or reason to the collection, he says, and no limitations. “I hate to put limitations on collecting.”
One wall in his living room (pictured) is lined with a series of reductive monochromatic squares. Duffy says visitors who stop by usually say two things: “How much is that?” and “I could have done that.” (For the record, some of the squares cost between $3,000 and $50,000 and, no, you couldn’t have.) People are always trying to figure out the puzzle, but Duffy is not very interested in art as a game for elites to discern obscure meanings. For him, the wall is a space of surrender and private contemplation. He talks about the monochromes as investigations into the application of the paint itself—you sense Duffy can literally feel the paint being brushed across the canvas. When he mentions, almost ecstatically, the feeling of “pouring myself into the canvas,” you know that the leadership of the arts community is in good hands.