It’s a Thursday evening in Reno, and the Who’s Who of the Las Vegas art community is mixing it up on the rooftop of the Nevada Museum of Art.
The preview opening of Tilting the Basin: Contemporary Art of Nevada is going off without a hitch, with the communication between Northern Nevada and Southern Nevada well under way over cocktails and a view of the quaint downtown neighborhood.
It was only a little more than a year ago when co-curators Michele Quinn and JoAnne Northrup made more than 50 studio visits with artists of diverse backgrounds and practices at both ends of the state. The bar was high. Quinn, a Las Vegas-based art adviser, had recently returned from Switzerland’s Art Basel, and applied the standards she had seen there during the visits.
Seventeen artists from Las Vegas were selected, joining the 17 selected from Reno. Among the Las Vegas group were David Ryan, Wendy Kveck, Mark Brandvik, Rachel Stiff and JK Russ, whose work joined those of Northern Nevada artists, including Galen Brown and Katie Lewis.
The aim, Quinn says, was to connect the artists in the two cities and show the level of sophistication in the work coming out of Nevada. The reference to “bridging the divide” powered discussions going forward. With the show mounted—a collection of exceptional works and concepts filling out the John Hawley Olds LaGatta Gallery—and the communities united for an evening, the anticipated conversations began. Within all of this is the growing relationship between the Nevada Museum of Art and its new friends in Las Vegas.
The museum had already co-produced Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains with New York’s Art Production Fund, placing the giant fluorescent boulder totems on public land off Interstate 15 just outside of Las Vegas this spring. Its officials and representatives have been in talks with board members of the Art Museum at Symphony Park (a working title for the planned institution), publicly stating their desires to be involved with the Las Vegas museum. And now the two entities have teamed up to bring Tilting the Basin to Las Vegas this spring, co-producing an eight-week run here.
While nothing is concrete regarding NMA’s involvement in the plans for a Las Vegas museum, Tilting represents the kind of professionalism that speaks to longtime community patrons and other potential donors, according to board members. “It gives them something substantial to consider,” Quinn says. “It’s not burning something down for the fun of it.”
Katie O’Neill, board chairwoman of the proposed art museum, says an exhibit like Tilting helps to gain momentum in marketing: “It’s so important for us to be up and running. This is a great entry point.”