Monday, Nov. 22, 2010 | 3:19 p.m.
There is no question it is an extraordinary work of art and an impressive, modern-day masterpiece. When James Rosenquist unveiled his 20-foot-by-10-foot Brain Space painting at the Frank Gehry-designed Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health on Saturday evening, the 100 privileged guests were speechless. They stood in awe and then broke out in tumultuous applause.
Hotel mogul Steve Wynn, who wanted the unique mural to decorate and dominate the Event Center at the downtown clinic, had generously commissioned the famed contemporary artist, and contributing photographer Erik Kabik was there to record the excitement for this spectacular Vegas DeLuxe photo gallery.
Valued at $12 million, it took more than a year to create. James told me after signing it: “It started as dozens of my sketches pinned on a wall. I’d change them in many ways. Then there were test sections. Then I went to Italy and found in my mind what I wanted to capture. It’s named Cervello Spazio Cosmico, which translates into Brain Space. The painting is a positive question about the amazing infinity of the brain and the mysterious infinity of cosmic space. It illustrates space in the brain, space in nature and space in man’s gesture. I hope it serves as a positive gesture.”
James, who was appointed to the National Council of the Arts in 1978 and is recognized worldwide as a leading major American contemporary artist, reduced his fee for the commission because he has lost two relatives to Alzheimer’s disease. The oil-on-canvas work is truly extraordinary and is a significant addition to the already extensive art collection of more than 4,000 pieces. Doctors believe that they serve as inspiration and medicine to the patients at the clinic.
Steve told me: “I couldn’t be happier how it has turned out. I wanted it have life. I wanted it to convey a happy feeling of hope in this place. I wanted it to be bright and bring cheer. James has turned out another masterpiece. Even if you are not into art, you will love what he has created. “
Larry Ruvo, chairman and founder of Keep Memory Alive, which funds the clinic named after his father who died from Alzheimer’s, invited 100 of his biggest donors and dignitaries to the unveiling as a thank you for their generous support. They included The Venetian and Palazzo President Rob Goldstein; The Mirage President Felix Rappaport; Dr. Jeff Cummings, clinic director; Dr. Kate Zhong, director of clinical research; Dr. Dylan Wint; and other generous Las Vegas VIP contributors.
After the unveiling, Larry threw a once-in-a-lifetime dinner created by three world-famous chefs: Alex Stratta and Paul Bartolotta from the Wynn and Chef of the Century Joel Robuchon from MGM Grand. Joel kicked off the amazing feast with a carpaccio of foie gras smothered in white truffle shavings to look like a crown made of penne pasta. Paul followed with ricotta ravioli made from Tuscan pecorino and white truffle. Alex created a soy-poached sous-vide poularde in a walnut crust and blueberry sauce. Joel ended the night with a Tahitian pineapple served with coconut sorbet. All the guest chefs are creating “brain food” for the clinic, and Joel is even writing a book on the subject of food to prevent the onslaught of Alzheimer’s.
The chefs were brought onstage after the meal and presented with magnums of champagne engraved with Rosenquist’s painting. The artist promptly autographed their bottles, and Alex laughed: “This is one bottle I’m not opening. Do you have any idea what this is worth? These are the only three bottles in the world like this!”
The next annual Keep Memory Alive gala is set for Feb. 26 at the Bellagio. Larry promises to announce in advance of that a special superstar surprise to support the continuing work of the Lou Ruvo Center. Meantime, you can help Keep Memory Alive win $10,000 in funding by voting for Larry’s story for leadership at the Rare Life Award pages of Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
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