You know your idea is successful when locals and visitors alike ask if Desert X is happening in the Coachella Valley again this year. With fanfare, we can proudly say the fourth Desert X is not only alive and well, it once again has produced some outstanding art installations definitely worth planning a weekend trip to check them out.
Many of our terrific Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels said their occupancy rate increased immediately after Desert X announced it was taking place March 4 through May 7, 2023. Our boutique hotels, with all their different vibes, are helping people find the perfect atmosphere to launch their journeys to discover the art installations.
What is Desert X?
This biennial event is an exhibition of 10 art installations throughout our desert landscape. Through a juried process, international and local artists were selected from their portfolios and invited to participate. Desert X identified a theme for 2023 that focuses on how we design our environments and live, which may or may not serve our world well. With the theme in mind, the selection committee hosts the artists and takes them to locations across the Coachella Valley that are accessible to the public and suitable for art to be installed.
How do you find the art installations?
Physical maps are available at the Ace Hotel. You can also download a map from the Desert X website. If you want to rely on your phones, here are the apps for Desert X for both iOS and Android.
Pro tip: From experience, I can tell you the GPS to these installations may not be totally accurate. Just keep an eye open; sometimes, the art is just on the opposite side of the road that GPS tells you.
What do I need to explore the area?
Now that you have the map or app, you should know a couple more things. First, you will need a car to explore Desert X — the installations are too spread out for walking.
Even though it feels like 70 degrees is perfect for exploring, our desert sun can be deceiving. Make sure you apply suntan lotion, take your sunglasses, wear a hat, and have plenty of water. Some of the artworks are located out in the open desert with nary a bit of shade to be found.
In fact, the best way to look at it is to prepare like you are going on a hike in the desert, and you will have all that you need. Oh, and wear closed-toe shoes. Trust me, you will be glad you did, for some paths are loose sand, filled with little spurs that find their way between your toes.
Pro tips: Desert X, upon request, will make reasonable accommodations to ensure people with disabilities have access to the art — email [email protected] with inquiries.
Also, take note: there are no restrooms available at the sites.
Desert X is a family event
Each time Desert X is held, I marvel at the laughter of families who have chosen to explore this free event together. Teenagers seem to relish being the directors to the various locations, while the younger ones frolic on the grounds surrounding each piece of art.
If you have been meaning to come to Palm Springs with a group of friends, Desert X provides the perfect daytime activity. Then, you have the whole evening to enjoy some of our patio restaurants, which offer a variety of cuisines.
What will I see?
That is the great thing about this exhibition. Every stop is different and is open to interpretation by the person viewing it. I was at the event’s opening and met some artists. Interestingly, most of them were reluctant to explain their art. They want you to experience and come up with your own interpretation.
My experience at an installation
With a friend and a map in hand, we decided to head out to see London artist Rana Begum’s “No. 1225 Chainlink” in Palm Desert. Once we found the site, we parked the car and headed down the pedestrian path to the enormous chainlink fence structure.
To our delight, Rana was onsite and being filmed, so we listened in on the interview. What struck me was that she said, “When you are walking through it, there is a sense of openness and then a sense of things closing in on you, and even a sense of panic for some.”
I entered the maze, and as it narrowed, I ended up in the middle, where round metal poles allowed me to feel the openness of the space. Then the task of finding my way out was not that easy. Admittedly, I sense panic for a moment — just like the artist predicted. The panic was short-lived, and I was smiling as I walked out.
I stood back and marveled that while the structure was massive, the lemon-colored fencing was somehow at home in its spot. Since it is going to remain in place through May, I can see taking visitors to Palm Springs out to experience it.
Sunnylands hosts an installation
Frankly, I never need an excuse to visit Sunnylands. Since one of the installations is there — “Amar A Dios En Tierra De Indios, Es Oficio Maternal,” by Mexican artist Paloma Contreras Lomas — we headed out to see it.
It was opening day, and I was once again blessed with the ability to meet the artist, perched on one of the many benches that grace the grounds of Sunnylands. The weather was beautiful, after a couple of rare rainy days in Palm Springs, and we discussed how her art contained several fragile touches and how they were created.
Desert X certainly does not disappoint. With eight more installations to visit, I am fortunate to live in Palm Springs and able to take off whenever I want to see them. If you plan to visit, I suggest you head to the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels website to make reservations for your accommodations. Word is spreading about this quality and often provocative art scattered throughout Coachella Valley, which adds the adventure of a scavenger hunt. Join in the fun and experience our lovely spring weather while taking in the beauty of our valley, surrounded by our majestic mountains.