Desert X’s third edition of the recurring site-specific art exhibition will open on schedule from February 6–April 11, 2021 at sites spanning 40 miles across California’s Coachella Valley. Among the first art experiences in the region since widespread lockdowns and shuttering of arts and cultural institutions due to the global pandemic, the outdoor exhibition will prioritize a safe and free visitor experience, and returns with an expanded board of directors and new support from corporate and individual donors.
Curated by returning Artistic Director Neville Wakefield with Co-curator César García-Alvarez, the 2021 edition of Desert X will present newly commissioned projects that build on the themes explored in previous iterations while looking deeper at the histories, realities and possibilities of the Coachella Valley and its many communities. Created by an exciting roster of international artists, the projects imagine the desert as both a place and an idea and attempt to create meaningful dialogues between regional and global desert experiences.
The exhibition will provide artists with a rare opportunity to present their work to a wide audience at a time when it is challenging to exhibit art in the same way as before the global pandemic took hold.
Bolstering the organization’s leadership, newly-elected board directors include San Francisco-based Alyse Archer-Coité, who is leading research and special projects for Apple’s industrial design team and is founder of a nonprofit to increase voter turnout in underrepresented communities; Palm Springs-based philanthropist, conservationist and art patron Roswitha Smale; and internationally-recognized, award-winning designer and author Kelly Wearstler. They join a board of pioneering creative and cultural professionals from a cross-section of disciplines and backgrounds, who together are working internationally and within the local community in contemporary art, design, architecture, publishing, technology, conservation and philanthropy.
The organization announced Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille, a global luxury brand with a long history of involvement with the arts, as presenting sponsor of the 2021 exhibition reinforcing the brand’s conviction that a close bond naturally exists between watchmaking and art.
“At a time when we all long for nourishment from art, Desert X is grateful for the expertise, guidance and contributions of our new board members—three accomplished women committed to the arts and its unifying role—Alyse Archer-Coité, Roswitha Smale and Kelly Wearstler, and for the generous support from our presenting sponsor Richard Mille. We look forward to embarking together on a new journey of exploration, providing a much-needed opportunity for visitors and their families to enjoy and engage safely with art by some of today’s most important artists as they address the urgent issues of these extraordinary times,” said Desert X Founder and President Susan L. Davis.
“Desert X’s literal removal of any walls that may have restricted today’s contemporary artists aligns with Richard Mille’s commitment to take the art and craft of fine watchmaking into a new realm,” said John Simonian, CEO, Richard Mille Americas. “Where our timepieces are tiny universes compared to the site-specific art installations coming to the Coachella Valley, we are all striving in our respective formats to challenge conventions, celebrate cultures, and foster dialogue about larger concepts, including the nature of time itself. We anticipate the people who attend Desert X, over the course of two months and the expanse of many miles, will step outside the familiar and interact in a meaningful way with this remarkable time and place.”
Among the partners announced for the third edition are those who have supported the recurring exhibition since its founding, including cultural partners Ace Hotel & Swim Club Palm Springs and Sunnylands Center & Gardens, and returning media partners artnet, The Desert Sun, Here TV, and Palm Springs Life Magazine. New corporate partners are Blick Art Materials, Blue Room Investing, Cerámica Suro, Maestro Dobel and Tamarisk Country Club, with the list still in formation.
Since its first edition in 2017, Desert X has established itself as an unrivaled art experience. To date, artists from twelve countries, as well as the Coachella Valley, have made compelling work in response to the conditions of the desert, continuing a legacy that began with the Land Art movement of the 1970s, when artists sought to create work outside of the confines of institutional walls, thus creating a new paradigm for the presentation and experience of art.
Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D., commented, “I fully support Desert X’s invitation for everyone to engage with art and culture here in our Valley. The outdoor and safe exhibitions will lift your spirit, drive tourism, provide fun, educational experiences for your children, offer real opportunities for local economic recovery, and most importantly, nourish your soul and find meaning during this pandemic. It is a good, healthy, family memory-making experience. I encourage you to join me and my family in support of and visit Desert X’s art and initiatives.”
“Desert X 2021 is uniquely positioned to provide a model to experience art safely,” said Desert X Executive Director Jenny Gil. “The journey through the California desert is an integral part of the exhibition. Open-air sites will allow for an adaptable, safe and socially-distanced experience.” Prior to the opening, the organization will release a Desert X visitor guide in compliance with state, county and CDC regulations that will contain up-to-date guidelines and requirements to safely experience the exhibition and the public programs. An enhanced digital experience is planned so that visitors from around the world can explore the exhibition from home.
The fight of their lives.
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