Las Vegas may be a long way from any ocean, but a shark at the Palms Casino Resort is getting a lot of attention.
A $620 million remodel of the property earlier this year has included the addition of a world-class art collection. Among them is a piece by artist Damien Hirst called “The Unknown (Explored, Explained, Exploded),” which serves as a centerpiece for the resort’s bar, also dubbed Unknown.
The sculpture consists of a 13-foot tiger shark, divided into three parts, with each section suspended in a formaldehyde solution within a steel tank. According to the Los Angeles Times, Hirst acquired the shark from an Australian fisherman. And, though versions of Hirst’s sharks have been in museums around the world, the three-part sculpture has never been exhibited.
Hirst’s work also appears throughout the venue, including 16 paintings from his “Pharmaceutical” series, which was created specifically for the bar. The artist also designed the bar’s logo, napkins and cocktail stir sticks.
Hirst, who has been sober for 11 years and doesn’t drink, told the Los Angeles Times that he was excited to design a Las Vegas bar because of the counterintuitive nature of the exhibition space.
“A lot of museums can feel like they’re made for dead artists — not very exciting place to hang art,” he told the Times.
“I’ve always liked how art can exist anywhere. You don’t always need white walls and a perfect white room to show contemporary art. What we’ve done here, with the Unknown Bar, the art really stands up and feels so alive.”