The California desert has long been a source of inspiration for artists seeking to create large-scale works that exist outside the typical gallery space. Desert X celebrates that tradition by bringing contemporary artists from around the world out to the Coachella Valley to create pop-up installations and site-specific pieces. The art festival returns for a run from February 9 to April 21.
Artists participating this year include Jenny Holzer, Iván Argote, and Pia Camil. Projects will span from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea, and a special symposium entitled “Desert Why?” will address the crisis of climate change in general, and its impact on the Salton Sea in particular. Jenny Holzer, known for her text-centric installations, will present Before I Became Afraid, a piece addressing gun violence, with poetry projected on the mountain landscape.
Visiting Desert X is free and self-guided, with maps of the artworks available at various locations and online. Guided tours ($125) will also be offered in conjunction with Modernism Week in Palm Springs, February 14 to 24.
While the Desert X dates overlap with the Coachella music festival weekends–and stopping by the installations makes for a great road trip diversion for festival-goers–it’s a totally separate entity. And it’s one with a mission: The undercurrent of all the art presented at Desert X is raising awareness of environmental and political issues and engaging visitors with the natural world.
The last time the event took place was 2017, when then festival included 16 pieces, including contributions from artists Jennifer Bolande, Will Boone, and Glenn Kaino. One of the most popular installations was artist Doug Aitken’s Mirage. The mirror-clad house reflected the surrounding mountains, almost disappearing into the landscape. The building’s design referenced architectural styles of the region while the infinite reflections brought up questions about the relationship between the built and natural environments and the expansion of human development. It was also a really popular selfie spot.