Desert X is a biennial contemporary art exhibition, spread across the valley, from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea. Each of the 18 art installations, from sculptures to virtual reality, present a different contemplative view on life in our valley.
The sheer ambition of Desert X triggers a search for the right metaphor. It is a mirror held up to the transition zone between the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, reflecting the real and romanticized versions of both. A quest to capture that which is elusive. A road trip, spinning from the mid-century roof lines of Palm Springs to the wilder territories of hills and sand.
Desert X is a 10-week biennial exhibition of site-specific art, opening Feb. 9 and running through April 21. Artists use the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea as inspiration and setting. It’s free and open to the public, inviting the curious to trek from point to point, learning the subtleties, challenges, and singular beauty of the region.
“You’re discovering these new areas that you haven’t been, and the journey is critical,” says Susan Davis, Desert X’s founder and board president. “We’re asking contemporary artists to provide a lens through which visitors can see the Coachella Valley, and see it in a new and different way.”
The success of the first Desert X caught most people by surprise, occasionally producing friction when visitors flooded residential neighborhoods. This time, staff took extra steps to integrate artworks with the surrounding communities. Shuttle buses will transport visitors into environmentally sensitive areas, and attendance is limited for some sites. The spread of the artworks asks more effort from participants, but also creates the opportunity to absorb what’s been seen and anticipate what comes next.
Artists in particular are drawn to this idea of contrast, which is very much in the foreground in the Coachella Valley,” he adds. “It’s different from the High Desert in that respect. It runs the full spectrum from the midcentury vision of Palm Springs to the architecture of Mecca and the Salton Sea. It was a natural expansion to try to embrace this and explore it as another facet.
The biennial gives new meaning to the word sprawling, with works scattered about an area of around 55 miles, in eight of the nine cities of the Coachella Valley.
“It’s expanded in lots of ways,” Chamberlain said at the opening press conference, citing the organization’s growing staff and the show’s vast geographic range, which extends for the first time into Mexico, with three pieces crossing the US’s southern border.