A Feast for the Eyes

A valley of world-class art stimulates and inspires all year

(Detail) Figure on a Porch (1959) appears in Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966 at Palm Springs Art Museum.


A shiny, stainless steel sculpture, fashioned after a “scholars rock” found in traditional Chinese gardens to promote serenity and encourage meditation, shimmers at the entrance of Palm Springs Art Museum. Artificial Rock #131, by artist Zhan Wang, is as eye-catching as it is monumental — and the harbinger of the fine art visitors will see inside the museum and around the Coachella Valley.

Great destinations have great art, and the Greater Palm Springs area is no exception.

The museum, like the city of Palm Springs, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and the season’s programming measures up to the occasion. Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966 opens the season in late October and continues through Feb. 16, 2014. Diebenkorn, one of California’s most important artists, is known for his vivid abstract landscapes. In the Berkeley years, he turned toward the representational style that influenced Bay Area Figurative art.

Meanwhile, Galen at The Galen (Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert) showcases works from the private collection of Helene Galen. The exhibition (Nov. 2 through Jan. 13, 2014) includes paintings and sculptures by Milton Avery, Ansel Adams, Tom Wesselmann, and Nick Cave.

Galen also contributed works to Into the Future: New Gifts to Commemorate the Museum’s 75th Anniversary, which opens in Palm Springs on Jan. 25, 2014, and continues through May. The exhibition includes works by Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois, Ed Ruscha, Adolf Gottlieb, Jean Dubuffet, Sam Francis, and many others.

And in March, California Dreamin’: Thirty Years of Collecting opens in Palm Springs, showcasing works by Mark Bradford, Jim Isermann, Lynn Foulkes, Nathan Olivera, and many others acquired with funds raised by the museum’s Contemporary Art Council.

The museum continues to work on its new Architecture and Design Center, located in the historic Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building in downtown Palm Springs. It will be the first freestanding museum of its kind, situated in the restored structure designed in 1961 by E. Stewart Williams.

Outside the museum, the gallery scene proves robust. Aficionados can find galleries in Uptown Palm Springs and the Backstreet Art District (Palm Springs); Perez Road (Cathedral City); El Paseo, The Art Place, and Walter N. Marks Center for the Arts at College of the Desert (Palm Desert), as well as at the Coachella Valley Art Center in Indio and venues in the High Desert, including High Desert Test Sites and BoxoProjects in Joshua Tree.

The heart of the gallery scene beats on El Paseo, where enthusiasts can find traditional Impressionism, classic Modern, innovative postwar, and cutting-edge contemporary art in a variety of media.

In January, the Southwest Arts Festival unfolds in Indio. On President’s Day weekend in February, more than 50 galleries from around the United States converge on Palm Springs Convention Center for the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair. In March, individual artists show their wares at La Quinta Arts Festival. Indian Wells Art Festival takes place in April. And in November, Whitewater Park hosts Rancho Mirage Art Affaire.

There’s so much to see. Check the calendar at palmspringslife.com for current exhibitions.

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