Discover the Life and Legacy of Liberace in a New Exhibition
The Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas is proud to announce the opening of a new exhibition on the performer and Las Vegas icon, Liberace.
Liberace: Real and Beyond opens on June 24, 2023. The exhibition will take visitors through Liberace’s life – including as a young prodigious pianist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1940s, his groundbreaking television career, his love of the church and his mother, through his death in 1987. Rarely-seen costumes and his collection of religious items are among the many personal items that will be on display in the exhibit, along with historical photographs and ephemera.
Together, the collection tells the story of his complicated life, showcases his contribution to the world of classical music, and highlights his influence on contemporary pop culture. “Liberace’s career follows a rags-to-riches American paradigm,” explains Josef Diaz, Curator of History and Material Culture, “but many exhibits have focused on the larger-than-life character of Liberace, losing who he was as a person. I hope we can go deeper on the simpler aspects of his life that made him who he was under all those feathers and sequins.”
Liberace: Real and Beyond includes items borrowed from the Liberace Foundation, which runs the Liberace Museum Collection from Thriller Villa and Liberace Garage in Las Vegas. The Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts, founded by Liberace himself in 1976, maintains the costumes, pianos, automobiles, antiques, art, jewelry, awards, and intellectual properties of the iconic entertainer. The timeline of his life will also be told in rarely-seen historical photographs from the Liberace Foundation’s archive.
Liberace (born Wladziu Valentino Liberace) was born to Polish-Italian immigrant parents in Wisconsin. He was exceptionally gifted at piano and at age twenty performed as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Instead of following a classical music career, he became an entertainer and showman in cabarets and hotels, mixing pieces by Chopin alongside folk songs and developing his onstage charm. His 1950s television program, The Liberace Show, brought his musical style to a large audience of over 30 million viewers. Moving to Las Vegas, he further developed his act and his moniker “Mr. Showmanship”, with elaborate costumes created by famous designers.
“Las Vegas owes its glitzy and glamourous style to Liberace,” says Jonathan Warren, CEO of the Liberace Foundation. “You can’t have one without the other and we’re so grateful for his legacy.”
Liberace also wrote cookbooks and was a devout Catholic. His meeting with the Pope was an influential part of his life. “To illustrate a person’s life with the use of their career and household items, give us all a well-rounded view,” curator Diaz says. “This exhibit contains costumes, candelabras, dining sets, bibles, and a diamond-studded piano. It is all very unexpected, but tells a wonderful story.”
Liberace: Real and Beyond opens to the public on June 24 and will be on display through December 31 in the museum’s changing gallery. A special members-only preview party, Cocktails & Candelabras, will be held on Friday, June 23 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. with refreshments, cocktails, and entertainment. To become a member, contact the museum at (702) 486-5205. Memberships range from $20-$65.