Theatrical floral sculptures create elegant—and astonishing—moments of unbridled joy in Wynn Palace.
Mythical animals, including a Pegasus, hippocamp, and unicorn, dance around a 16-foot-high musical floral carousel.
Weeks before the opening of Wynn Palace, technicians are testing a band of merrymaking monkeys in a deep recess in the resort’s north atrium. Swooping, dancing, flowerbedecked monkeys, holding French horns, flutes, and drums, that swing on a four-pronged seesaw anchored by golden cellos, to be more precise. Once raised to their atrium height, they’ll stand 14 feet above the floor in all their Technicolor glory—straight out of a wild childhood fantasy.
In fact, the monkeys are just one of eight massive, floral spectacles that will fill the north and south atria, changing every few months. “We knew that we needed to keep people amused and surprised,” explains artist and event planner Preston Bailey, from whose brain this boundless joy sprang—as well as the seven other kinetic displays.
Enter the colorful new carousel currently taking its happy turn inside Wynn Palace’s south atrium, its 10 horses, including a mythical Pegasus, unicorn, and hippocamp (a seahorse from Greek mythology), festooned with more than 83,000 flowers. In the north atrium, a Ferris wheel revolves slowly, covered with 102,000 flowers and more than 1,100 lights—each of its chairs having required a meticulous 250 hours of fabrication. Also on the way: a windmill of 75,000 roses, peonies, daisies, and lisianthus; a jack-in-the-box that springs from his floral encasement to a height of 15 feet (the largest of his kind in the world); and five balloons—one of nearly 17 feet in height—that, despite their weight of two metric tons, seem to rise effortlessly to the ceiling.
To fully comprehend the detail involved, now imagine these pieces, some comprising as many as 6,000 individual parts, dismantled and shipped from Las Vegas more than 7,000 miles to their new home in Cotai.
It’s a good day when you’re a panda on a floral Ferris wheel.
Bailey, of course, is no stranger to spectacle, and his love for a good extravaganza is what first brought him to Wynn. “Many years ago, I created a floral peacock sculpture, and then was asked to create one in Covent Garden in London for an art exhibit that then traveled to Taiwan, Jakarta, and New York,” he explains. And although Roger Thomas, Executive Vice President of Design at Wynn Design & Development, already knew him, it wasn’t until Bailey’s wedding three years ago that the idea of a Wynn collaboration kicked in. “I had this idea of walking out from underneath this 12-foot-high moving wedding dress designed by Vera Wang,” Bailey says. “It was held at the Empire State Building on Valentine’s night at midnight, and Roger was a guest. There was this incredible mystery and romance about that night.” One partnership was solemnized that evening, and the Wynn collaboration shortly thereafter.
Bailey’s first projects for Wynn were the charming floral carousel and balloons that decorate Wynn Las Vegas—two of the most photographed landmarks in Las Vegas. But as happens in many of Steve Wynn’s hotels, the two floral sculptures were a study for the Palace’s much grander statements. When Wynn conceived Wynn Palace, Bailey recalls, “He said, ‘Preston, show me what you’ve got.’” From among dozens of ideas and hundreds and hundreds of revisions, the eight fabulous sculptures will now begin their rotations in the Palace. Thanks to air compressors, coolers, and cranes tucked invisibly below each atrium, these sculptures will be swapped out every few months like plays at a repertory theater.
Months earlier, Bailey is in the studios of Forte Specialty Contractors, where all the sculptures were fabricated. As effortless as the carousing monkeys look during testing, the armatures that surround them in Las Vegas tell a story of high-flying feats of mechanical, electrical, and artistic engineering. He inspects the work as artisans cover entire cellos in gold leaf, examine each individual button mum, and work on the mechanical underpinnings that will send the monkeys on their exuberant, teetering dance. Forte master sculptor Mod Toonrud carved the monkeys, and you can credit Las Vegas costume designer Tricia Camacho for the naturalistic way in which the coats seem to flip up and around. Her challenge in this case: imagine how a costume would move on a monkey playing a cello. “You look at the way a cape flies up in the air and you realize that someone behind that vision really knows fabrics,” Bailey marvels. On that day, the final of the eight spectacles is also in production: a massive, 12-foot-tall Fabergé egg that slowly opens its gilded shell to reveal a flower-covered phoenix, which rises to a height of 16 feet above the floor, flapping its wings, while the egg slowly rotates. Despite the fact that this egg has been more than 18 months in the making and has required over 650 drawings to finalize, Bailey claps his hands in delight as if it’s the first time he’s seen such a thing. “These were crazy ideas,” he says. “A lot of what we were doing, we wondered at the time if it was really possible. But I encourage the impossible. It’s making them possible that’s the most exciting.”