High art for high rollers: The Damien Hirst–designed suite at the Palms casino in Las Vegas is open for stays.
New reasons to go to Vegas this spring: Lady Gaga’s Enigma residency, Roy Choi’s buzzy Korean fusion restaurant, and the renovated Palms casino, which now contains one of the largest hotel collections of modern art in the world.
On March 1, the hotel unveiled the Empathy Suite, its latest collaboration with Damien Hirst, the contemporary artist known for his provocative installations exploring life and death and his Warholian pop art (at its peak, Hirst's production studio employed 250 people).
Hirst—whose work is displayed throughout the property—partnered with the architectural firm Bentel & Bentel to turn the 9,000-square-foot suite into a kaleidoscopic ode to his most familiar themes. There are original works (including a shark installation) and designed elements (pill-covered wallpaper and a butterfly-tiled pool). It’s one of the final pieces of a $690 million remodel—helmed by billionaire art collectors and Vegas fight promoters Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta—that transformed the space into an art lover’s dream. At $100,000 per night, the two-bedroom, two-story suite, is the world’s most expensive according to the hotel. With room to host more than 100 people, the suite is reserved for million-dollar casino players, or those who want the bragging rights of spending a weekend in a space designed by a giant of contemporary art.
From there, the treasure hunt continues with Open Your Hands, a graphic, cheerful acrylic painting from Takashi Murakami, which ushers you to the elevator bank of the Fantasy Towers. In the Pearl theater, you can take in an ’80s-esque street art mural from Felipe Pantone before filing into “Til Death Do Us Part,” an 800-square-foot working chapel from Joshua Vides (his riff on the city’s iconic Little White Wedding Chapel). Hirst alone has 15 pieces in the hotel, including two black-and-white paintings bookending a Warhol in the Scotch 80 Prime steakhouse, and one of his shark triptychs, The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded), which swims above the Unknown bar in the heart of the casino.
There’s more to come when the Palms celebrates the grand opening of the final phase of the nearly three-year makeover, April 5-7. Until then, here are the highlights of the new suite.
Sharks—and other undersea creatures—take center stage
It wouldn’t be a Hirstian space without at least one shark installation. Hirst’s first tiger-shark triptych, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, remains his most iconic (not to mention controversial) work and was arguably the piece that made him a household name. In the Empathy Suite, Winner/Loser—two bull sharks, perpetually swimming in opposite directions in a sea of formaldehyde—is the centerpiece of the entryway. The underwater theme continues as you move into the space. Suspended over the 13-seat bar is Here for a Good Time, Not a Long Time, a set of marlin (one taxidermied and one skeleton).
Hirst’s obsession with the medical world is also on display . . .
The suite is a pharmacist’s dream (or nightmare?). There’s silvery wallpaper covered in pills, looking very much like a periodic table for Big Pharma. A vanity stool with an enormous Proloprim for a seat. Leather chairs emblazoned with Zenith capsules. Back-lit columns featuring a sea of unidentifiable white tablets. And finally, Hirst’s Vegas, a medicine cabinet filled with carefully placed over-the-counter medications and medical supplies.
. . . It even extends to the bar
The bar top is made from more than 175 pounds of medical waste (latex gloves, biohazard bags, and tongue depressors, oh my).
Butterflies are in Every. Single. Room
Butterflies—one of Hirst’s signature motifs—are everywhere. The theme flies from the carpet to the in-suite massage tables, from the pillows to the 10 painted panels that make up his Casino Royale collection.
Even the entertainment has an artistic twist
There’s an opportunity to play around every corner. A clear, acrylic foosball table sits on the opposite side of the bull sharks. A glossy, white-rimmed pool table with a reproduction of a Hirst acrylic sits nearby. A Damien Hirst coloring book rests on a butterfly-topped table. And outside on the terrace, the water in shallow Jacuzzi tiled with butterflies ripples in the breeze.
There’s an entire room devoted to salt
Tucked into one corner of the suite is a glowing relaxation room made from bricks of Himalayan sea salt. (Halotherapy, or salt therapy, its believed to be beneficial to the lungs.) The Hirst twist? A large butterfly is carved into one wall.
Every part of the suite is over-the-top—including the views
Various, intensely luxurious details tie the entire suite together. The mirrored underbelly of the staircase reflects Venus gray marble floors. Several swings draped with white fur blankets hang in the second-floor living room. A medicine cabinet filled with 12,710 diamonds occupies an entire wall. And then there’s the view of the Vegas strip from the terrace, overlooking Hirst’s 60-foot-tall bronze Demon sculpture in the courtyard below.