In early May, a trio of monumental busts appeared on the Everett shoreline overlooking the Mystic River. The three heroically scaled, 20-foot stainless steel portraits of women by Spanish-born artist Jaume Plensa gaze toward the Boston skyline and back toward their new home, Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor—the first residents of the $2.6 billion destination gaming resort, which opened June 23.
The busts occupy a piece of shoreline that had housed a vast network of chemical manufacturing businesses for over a century and had been deserted since 1983 when Wynn Resorts underwent the massive reclamation project. “There’s a watchfulness about these works,” says Michele Quinn, of Las Vegas-based MCQ Fine Art, who was brought in as an advisor for the resort’s fine art and design collection. “They are in a way emblematic of the collection, and the resort itself. They embody the gaze and are both about future thought and memory.”
The trio anchors a collection of public works on the resort’s Harborwalk, a system of pedestrian trails that sits on a 6-acre park. The idea, Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox says, is to give the shoreline back to the public. In fact, installing art is one of the first orders of business in any of Wynn’s resorts. Roger Thomas, the executive vice president of Wynn Design & Development, who has also built collections of rare art and design in the company’s Las Vegas, Macao and Cotai resorts, explains: “We rely on important art to create an experience of drama, romance and joy within environments that we create to frame the objects in a memorable way. It’s simply integral to our process.”
Encore Boston Harbor’s collection has been in the works for five years, Thomas says. Popeye, the vibrant Jeff Koons work in mirror-polished stainless steel that Thomas says “was coincidentally perfect in subject to be placed next to a famed American harbor,” has been awaiting his move for those five years. Guests will also find Viola Frey’s “Amphora IV,” a monumental glazed ceramic urn that sits in the lobby at the base of two curved escalators, and the distinctive “Billion 1” by modernist Charles Arnoldi, which employs tree branches and resin to create the massive, muscular work that hangs behind the reception desk. All around the resort, you will find decorative works such as an astonishing collection of 19th century Venetian mirrors, 18th century giltwood panels and architectural elements sourced from antiques galleries around Paris and Venice, and even a pair of 1930 polychrome art deco panels from the Mayflower Hotel in Akron, Ohio—a reference to America’s first Mayflower.
For some viewers, the connection point in the collection might not be immediately apparent. “There is a deeply informed art [history] thread that goes through this collection,” Quinn says. “The Plensa sculptures take the most ancient of forms, the bust, and amplify it. Frey’s “Amphora IV” juxtaposes contemporary figures on a Bronze Age form. The contemporary works look back at history, and the centuries-old works inform us of the form, shape and style that future generations will mold into a new context.”
Even the most contemporary works take inspiration from story. A sculptural chandelier by designer Hervé Van der Straeten called Lustre Galatée n°507, suspended above the bar in restaurant Sinatra, may look like a giant suspended gemstone, but it is based on the Greek myth of Galatea. A polished convex mirror sculpture, “Torus,” in the porte-cochere, draws on artist David Harber’s own family legacy—he is descended from Elizabethan England’s most important sundial maker—to create new works that, as they reflect their surroundings, underscore the recurring patterns of the passage of time.
And though there has been plenty of speculation over what will happen to this property since Wynn Resorts and MGM issued a joint statement in May confirming that they had been engaged in preliminary talks to sell Encore Boston Harbor to MGM, you would never know it from exploring the collection, which feels simultaneously fresh to this area and as if it has been here forever. It’s an intentional feeling, Quinn says: “Art is meant to be place-making. We can only imagine that the Plensa women would agree. 1 Broadway, Everett, Mass., encorebostonharbor.com