Desert X 2019

Amazing Installations by Acclaimed Artists Transform the Desert into an International Art Venue

Posted By: Monday, February 18, 2019

By Barbara Beckley

From awesome art in the solitary sand to Palm Springs’ bus stops, stairs to nowhere at the Salton Sea, a glittery ghost palm and mid-century modern architecture as a sounding board, Desert X 2019 has turned the Coachella Valley into an artistic canvas for all to enjoy.   Feb. 9 - April 21, 2019.     

Now through April 21, 2019, 19 site-specific works by artists from around the world provide yet another reason to enjoy the desert. “It’s a wonderful way to take a new look at the valley’s beauty and go to places you usually wouldn’t go to,” said Amanda Hunt, co-curator, and director of education & programming at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.   

I agree. The thrill of discovering unexpected destinations is as exciting as viewing the art. I’d never walked in the desert outside Palm Springs until I saw “SPECTER,” an orangey-red monolith seemingly floating in the pristine landscape. And “Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas),” a gigantic LED wall rising near the Palm Springs Visitor Center. “I love this space. It’s the gateway to Palm Springs, where two mountains come together with a void of sky behind,” said SPECTOR artist John Gerrard. “This space is unique, just as is Palm Springs. You couldn’t produce a city like this anywhere else.”   

Nor had I seen the glistening water and active birdlife of the Salton Sea, until I viewed “Mosquito Net,” a montage of colorful characters set in the water, and “A Point of View,” five sets of stairs rising into the sky, offering sweeping views of the vast inland sea and surrounding mountains.   

Desert X 2019 is expanded – in breadth and depth. The installation themes are different, showcasing each artist’s take on the valley’s rich history and culture. Some works even cross the border – with companion installations in Mexico.        

Desert X is free. “All you need is a car, a map, a GPS and you’re off – “on a wonderful hunt for art,” said Neville Wakefield, Desert X 2019 artistic director. You can pick up the Desert X 2019 Guide magazine, map and GPS coordinates at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs. It’s one of three Desert X Hubs. Guided bus tours are offered on weekends from the Ace Hotel. 

So let’s get started!   

Location 1 – “Before I Became Afraid” in Whitewater Preserve. Unfortunately, the organizers became afraid this work might harm the big horn sheep, who are fighting an illness, so it’s closed at this time. Check for updates.

Location 2 – “SPECTER” in Whitewater. A shock of fluorescent orange, casting a bright orange shadow on a brown landscape. 

Location 3 – “Going Nowhere Pavilion #01” in Desert Hot Springs. This pink and breezy concrete block Mobius strip is a photo fav.  12878-12822 Eliseo Road, Desert Hot Springs.

Going Nowhere Pavilion #01
Credit: Lance Gerber


Location 4 – “Ghost Tree” in Desert Hot Springs. Try to get there around sunset for a spectacular visual. Bubbling Wells Road at San Gorgonio Street, Desert Hot Springs.

Ghost Tree
Credit: Lance Gerber


Location 5 A-B – “Revolutions” in Palm Springs. Use the 4th Wall app on your phone or tablet to view this high tech art here at the wind farm, and at Location 5B – “Margin of Error” at the Salton Sea. For Revolution, go North on Indian Canyon Drive and face the wind farm and San Jacinto mountain. For Margin of Error, head to North Shore Yacht Club in Mecca.

Salton Sea Revolutions
Credit: Lance Gerber
Credit: Lance Gerber


Location 6 – “Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas)” in Palm Springs catches eye and the mind with its gigantic 24/7 digital simulation.  2901 N Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. Open sunrise to sunset.

Western Flag
Credit: John Gerrard


Location 7 A-C – “Peace is the Only Shelter” in Palm Springs. Who knew bus stops could become fine art!?  One of the three bright yellow shelters; 333 South Palm Canyon Drive, 469-499 South Indian Canyon Drive, 457-467 South Indian Canyon Drive.

Pease is the Only Shelter
Credit: Lance Gerber


Location 8 A-F – “Wormhole” in six locations. Look inside an empty storefront at a lone TV monitor in Palm Springs and see the exterior of another deserted storefront, thus being “transported” to another location in Cathedral City, Indian Wells, Indio, Coachella or Tijuana, Mexico.

Location 9 – “Jackrabbit, Cottontail & Spirits of the Desert” in Palm Springs. Four billboards depict these “time travelers,” as Chemehuevi tribal citizen Cara Romero, describes her work. Drive north on Gene Autry Trail and you will see it between Via Escuala and Interstate 10 in Palm Springs.   

Jackrabbit, Cottontail & Spririts of the Desert
Credit: Lance Gerber


Location 10 A-B – “Lover’s Rainbow” in Rancho Mirage. This multi-hued rebar is a photo favorite, and crosses the border, with an identical “Rainbow” in Baja’s beautiful Guadalupe Valley wine region outside Ensenada. Across from The Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage.

Lover's Rainbos
Credit: Barbara Beckley


Location 11 – “Surrogates” in Rancho Mirage. This film-set prop of a refining facility and accompanying text describing the movie in which it appeared was inspired by the Sunnylands Center & Gardens.  

Location 12 – “It Exists in Many Forms” in Palm Desert. Mid-century architecture enthusiasts can watch -- and listen to the artists’ interpretation of desert sounds and conversations -- as the Walter White Wave House is restored over the course of Desert X.   73697-73745 Santa Rosa Way, Palm Desert.

It exists in Many Forms
Credit: Barbara Beckley


Location 13 – “Dive-in”. “Fish love the color pink,” say the Danish artists, whose installation predicts the return of the ocean to the valley. Visit at night, and watch fish swimming around an identical installation in the Pacific Ocean.  43143 Jackson Street, Indio. 

Credit: Lance Gerber


Location 14 – “Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark” in Indio doubles as a performance space with sound speakers, live performers and looped video of past performances.  

Location 15 – “Visit Us in the Shape of the Clouds” in Coachella. A water tank showcases wonderful images of the American Southwest and beyond.     

Visit Us in the Shape of the Clouds
Credit: Lance Gerber


Location 16 – “A Point of View” in Mecca. Climb the stairs. There are five staircases. Read the writing on each step. Thrill to the beauty of the Salton Sea and valley.  70th Ave. and Sea View Way, Mortmar.  Open sunrise to sunset.

A Point of View
Credit: Lance Gerber


Location 17 – “Mosquito Net” in the Salton Sea. Colorful characters bring life to the sea.  North Shore Beach and Yacht Club, 99155 Sea View Drive, Mecca.

Mosquito Net
Credit: Lance Gerber


Location 18 – “Halter” in Mecca. Designer Missoni fabric flies from an abandoned gas station. “I freed the fabric from being worn,” the artist told me.  99021 Grapefruit Blvd and Vander Veer Road, Mecca.

Credit: Barbara Beckley


Location 19 – “Terminal Lake Exploration Platform” in the Salton Sea State Park Recreation Area. Science turns artistic, with this solar-powered floating laboratory.  Salton Sea State Park Recreation Area - 100225 State Park Road, Mecca. Open 10am - 4pm

Terminal Lake Exploration Platform
Credit: Barbara Beckley


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