Elegant Vegas Bunker Is Home to Museum-Caliber Collection

Emphasis on contemporary photography and distinct canvases sets house apart

AEG John Nelson Vegas Mansion
Clint Jenkins

There it exists, in harmony with the desert landscape and yet distinct from it. John Nelson and Milo Miloscia’s sleek and surprising home — a modernist aberration in gate-guarded Ten Oaks, about five miles west of the Strip in Las Vegas — looms like an elegant bunker in a neighborhood that could be mistaken for a posh bedroom community in Orange County. But what lies within is a veritable museum of contemporary art, albeit one in which the owners can live and entertain with comfortable elan.

Unlike the corporate collections of talent agencies curated as power statements, this assemblage of photographs, paintings, furniture and sculptures is deeply personal.

“Everything is done with intention,” says Nelson, VP of AEG Live Las Vegas, with characteristic understatement.

Adds Miloscia, who worked for producer Robert Evans in the late ’90s before booking concerts for such venues as the Hollywood Bowl and the Joint in Vegas: “Our aesthetic is (to think) of everything as artful, from furniture to artwork to the way something is placed on a shelf in the refrigerator.”

The 6,300-square-foot property — 2,400 of it a detached art gallery — is a study in contrasts. Rebuilt in 2001-02 from the ground up by Sheriff Architecture Studio, the home’s exterior is a minimalist symphony of smooth gray stucco, bleached gravel, ocean pebbles and blue agave. On a mercilessly hot summer day, the shadeless pool in back seems to represent more of a dare than a refreshment.

The coolness of the interior, by contrast, is aided by a slick, hand-trowled cement floor finished in a color as rich as espresso. Stainless steel and glass doors add to the clean design, and the large rear windows that face the pool provide plenty of natural light throughout the house.

But it’s the art that brings this otherwise spartan space alive.

“Because the exterior of the house is monochromatic,” says Nelson, “the interior — all white walls and a dark chocolate floor — just lends itself to having art on the walls.”

The primary emphasis is on photography, with established names like Sally Mann, Sebastiao Salgado, Ansel Adams, Jill Greenberg and Larry Clark sharing space with such lesser-known experimentalists as Mona Kuhn, the L.A.-based photographer who executed a series of nudist colony portraits; Ryan McGinley, one of the “it” boys of the art world also known for his nudes; Jeffrey Milstein, whose images of jets and planes look almost scientific in their precision; and Simon Norfolk, who appears obsessed with satellites and rocketry.

Two photos in the master bedroom of a mule and bull posed on a beach by Daniel Naude, a Cape Town artist whom Nelson and Miloscia discovered on a recent trip to Africa, are large and vivid enough to evoke the dioramas in the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

Among the more conspicuous canvasses on display are three bold statements by world-renowned French artist Fabrice Berger-Remond; two landscapes by Pacific Northwest artist Robert Connell with a muted color palette seemingly borrowed from Klimt and Schiele; and a pair of prints by Tim Bavington, a Vegas-based artist whose Frank Stella-like steel structure outside the city’s Smith Center for the Performing Arts stands tall as local monument.

Throughout the house and adjacent gallery, art books, sculptures and folk pieces abound, from decorative glass daggers by Mitchell Gaudet to a bongo-shaped sculpture from Jun Kaneko, a multimedia artist from Japan whose work is included in more than 70 museums around the world.

Wood-planked dressers that have been painted to accentuate the grain are from Established & Sons in the U.K.; a comfy purple Bend Sofa with red piping from Milan-based designer Patricia Urquiola anchors the living room; and a Frank Gehry form-equals-function bar stool seems tucked away from prying eyes.

Nelson and Miloscia, who have been collecting since the day they met almost 14 years ago, have perused galleries and auction houses from L.A. and San Francisco to New York and beyond. When asked to differentiate their tastes, Miloscia says Nelson, who earned a degree in Italian art history, “is probably a little more conservative than I am.” But at the end of the day, their preferences have seemingly converged.

“It’s pretty amazing,” says Miloscia. “We can go through a catalog separately and we’ll both mark the same photo without even knowing what the other person wanted.”