Desert X

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Modernism, the two-week presentation of design, architecture and art in Palm Springs, takes a detour this weekend with the inaugural presentation of Desert X, a sprawling show of contemporary site-specific art installed throughout the Coachella Valley.

Curator Neville Wakefield has selected 16 artists, emerging and well-known, local and international and fairly diverse. VIP tickets are available for Friday, February 24, but as of February 25, it will be on view to the public through April 30. As such, it will attract those attending the Coachella Music Festival. To some extent, the success of large-scale art installations there has fueled the idea of what Desert X organizers hope will be a biennial event.

If you don’t think the Palm Springs area is geared up, think again. Hotels are offering special packages, lectures, tours, other events. The newly renovated Triada, located in the Movie Colony and known for hosting celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Howard Hughes, offers a special $10,000 package that includes three nights in a private casita, VIP heli-tour of the land art installations and private tour of all the Desert X art shows, VIP entry to the parties, lunch with Desert X founder Susan Davis and tax-deductible membership as founders of this biennial.

All the excitement seems warranted. Here are some pieces that seem promising to me:

Lita Albuquerque has installed a life size resin cast of a female figure in ultramarine blue on a field of white sand on the Great Lawn of Sunnylands. The figure appears to be listening to the audio composed by Albuquerque.

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Doug Aitken creates his own form of rancho mirage by covering a ranch house inside and out with mirrored surfaces that reflect the desert and surroundings.

Richard Prince, who had previous house projects in LA, offers "Third Place" in the environs of Desert Hot Springs with a cynical musing on the notion of family relationships.

Bahamian Tavares Strachen takes on the scale and impact of 1970s-era land art with 290 craters dug over 100,000 square feet and filled with brightly lit neon tubes that, if viewed from the sky, read "I am."

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Philip K. Smith III was the star of the 2016 Coachella Music Fest. This year’s installation, "The Circle of Land and Sky" features 300 geometric reflectors angled at 10 degrees. As the light shifts and you move through the installation, the appearance of land and sky are constantly changing.

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Rob Pruitt brings his artist-oriented Flea Market to the Palm Springs Art Museum while Juliao Sarmento stages a scene of sexual tension set to music in a hotel room. Jennifer Bolande takes over a series of billboards that replicate the view of the San Jacinto Mountains.

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Worried about getting back in town in time for the Oscars? There is a viewing party in Palm Springs on February 26 at Mr. Lyons at 6pm with proceeds benefitting future Desert X biennials. For more information, go to