To visually encounter the California desert oasis of Palm Springs is to experience two breathtaking concepts at once: natural beauty and human creative energy. From towering, pine-dotted peaks, visitors can spy gorgeous modern domiciles and stunning art installations that spread out below them along an expansive, serene desert plane. Gazing through a mirage-warped desert view leads eyes to "Mirage," an arty concept home made entirely of mirrors.
These unique encounters of nature and art come alive in the Coachella Valley this February in the form of two artistic events that draw an international crowd: Desert X and Modernism Week. The first is an outdoor art gallery with ambitious exhibits that both tie back to their natural locale and call for responsibility and stewardship. The latter is a celebration of the wide-in-scope, tight-in-execution design movement that is ubiquitous in the lowlands between Mt. San Jacinto and Joshua Tree National Park.
Desert X, conceived in 2015 and held biennially ever since, is part contemporary art exhibition, part scavenger hunt. While known most widely for the aforementioned "Mirage," where polished walls and roof panels reflect back at the viewer and the endless landscape, Desert X is equal parts large-scale installation art, uncommon technology show and fun interactivity that combine to turn the valley into the world's biggest and most nature-oriented art walk. In 2017, a highlight exhibit was "ShyBot," an autonomous robot designed to avoid human contact. The experiment worked so well that the bot was lost completely, only to be found non-functional by off-roaders months later.
Beginning in February, visitors will have a chance to view works that, like those in 2017, reflect the sights and the soul of the desert landscape. Beginning this year, the exhibition will expand southward to include the unique Salton Sea, California's enormous, accidental saltwater lake, and its equally beautiful and decimated shore and shore-adjacent landscapes.
Further north and indoors — but no less creative — Modernism Week returns to Palm Springs, beginning Feb. 14. Entering its 13th year, the weeklong bazaar, tour and party is a celebration of the Mid-Century design movement, highlighting the architecture and interior design that helped make the desert region world-famous.
The week, which typically draws thousands from all over the country and beyond, features 75 events including house visits, lectures, cocktail parties and opportunities to bring modernism home. Highlights for 2019 include a tour of the beautiful Cree home. The hillside domicile, one of two well-preserved houses from the father of "desert modernism," has been privately occupied since the 1970s and has only recently been made tour-accessible to the public. Its cantilevered balconies, industrial-inspired materials and sweeping valley vistas are not to be missed.
Those looking to shop should purchase a ticket now for the Modernism Show and Sale. The expo features furniture, art, decor and jewelry from or inspired by the modernist movement. Some of the best high-end home decor and art dealers in the country bring curated pieces, one-of-a-kind accoutrements and more from around the globe to offer for sale. Got an itch to buy early? A Friday night preview and mixer is an option.
Given the start date, love will surely be in the air. Celebrate Valentine's with your squeeze — or find a new, beautiful connection among the stunning designs — at Modern Love. Held in the landmark 1962 Indian Canyons Country Clubhouse, this kickoff event features dancing, a live band, cocktails and romance among the modernist floor-to-ceiling glass panels.