Some refer to the Shops at Crystals as a “treasure chest.” The treasures are the numerous luxury stores, while the chest is the angular Daniel Libeskind-designed structure. Since it opened in 2009, Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, has continually replenished its artistic bounty, including the addition of two works by renowned light artist James Turrell.
Now, Tatsuo Miyajima’s 2008 piece Hoto (meaning treasure pagoda), an 18-foot tall structure covered in mirrors and 3,827 vibrantly colored LED displays, has found a home at the Shops at Crystals. Inspired by a Buddhist scripture about a bejeweled tower that emerges from the ground, floats midair and covers half the world, Hoto symbolizes the importance of every human life. Integrated within the piece are three Buddhism-inspired concepts: everything changes, everything is connected and everything goes on forever.
Recently Murren shared his journey to discover the Japanese artist, and how Hoto signifies a commitment by MGM Resorts to the culture and community of Japan.
Why this artist for this space?
I just studied Miyajima in books initially. I saw a couple of pieces in the U.S., but they’re small and relatively minor. Then I went to Naoshima, Japan, which is life-changing. I stayed at the Benesse House, designed by Tadao Ando. I went from museum to museum to pagoda to gallery and it was the best art experience of my life. Benesse is a collection of the best of contemporary artists, from Rauschenberg to Turrell to Oldenburg to Lee Ufan. Miyajima has a pagoda, small, humble; maybe 10 people at most can fit. You sit down on a bench, experience his numeric calibrations, and it’s meditative, serene. I walked out of there and I felt energized. So I started exploring his work more and I learned that [Hoto] has been in storage. It’s never left Asia. It lived in Japan and briefly in China. It’s so large and complicated. I just had to have this here. The artist is expressing the Buddhist philosophy of the value of human life. He was particularly struck by the tragedy of 9/11, and I felt strongly about the piece, the inspiration behind the piece and the artist himself. It was a perfect fit.
We’ve seen a vested interest from MGM Resorts in Japanese culture, beginning with the Kabuki show, Fight With a Carp, at the Fountains at Bellagio in August, and now this. Why is now the right time to showcase this commitment?
We’ve had an institutional relationship with Japan that dates back decades. The most visitors we traditionally receive from Asia come from Japan. I’ve been going to Japan all my adult life. It’s one of my favorite places to visit. … I’m particularly struck by the beauty of the landscape, the architecture, the art and the serene nature of the environments. For the past three years, we’ve been visiting Japan more frequently because the country has been evaluating whether or not they would like to have integrated resorts as part of their economy. I feel strongly that part of the commitment to this process should be a commitment to the country.