Hidden across the Palm Desert each Spring are beautiful art installations. From a Ghost Palm that blends into its surroundings to a rainbow making a statement on the horizon, Desert X is a whimsical annual event that you can’t miss if you are in the area! Lasting only from February to April (after Coachella), Desert X is fleeting – unlike the Seven Magic Mountains in Nevada, these art pieces will be removed and new ones will be built next year! This is your Desert X Palm Springs 2019 guide to the best installations, how to find them and must-know tips for visiting.
I discovered Desert X on Instagram as most people do. Robin and I were visiting Joshua Tree and Palm Springs for the Alt Summit conference and I randomly stumbled upon the Rainbow installation. After a little digging around, I realized that there are TONS of other art pieces hidden around the desert and Coachella Valley, and we quickly changed our plans to make time to go hunting for as many as we could!
HOW TO FIND DESERT X PALM SPRINGS INSTALLATIONS
The first step is to download the Desert X app! It’s only available on iPhone, though, so my husband who has an android couldn’t download it. The app has all the Desert X 2019 locations and information about them. Be warned the featured photos are still a little vague and don’t always allow you to fully understand what the piece will look like.
I personally didn’t have good cell service in every part of the desert in California here, so I recommend you keep this blog post open and loaded on your phone as I have the addresses to each and every Desert X installation so you can easily find them even if your app isn’t loading!
When you get near a Desert X art site, you will see a sign with a little black and white X marking the spot. That’s how you know you’ve made it (if you can’t see the piece from the car!)
OUR FAVORITE DESERT X 2019 INSTALLATIONS
By my count, there are 24 total Desert X 2019 installations around the palm springs desert area. They range from Cathedral City all way to the Salton Sea. If you’re trying to visit all of the artists’ works, you probably need more than a day to hit them all up. For most people, like ourselves, seeing them all just wasn’t practical, so we had to pick and choose which we could see. I did a lot of hunting on Instagram for photos of the pieces and also chatted with people in person to get the inside scoop on the best Desert X Palm Springs installations to view.
*I do want to note that when I say “best” I mean easy to find and fun to photograph. I’m not saying some art is bad and some of the art is good.
Where to find: Cathedral City at Rancho Mirage (navigate + park at The Atrium)
Artist: Pia Camil
A beautiful rainbow in the middle of a barren desert. This Desert X piece is one of my favorites, as it just makes me smile. It’s also really easy to access as it’s on the main road.
Super Flex (Pink Structure)
Where to find: Palm Desert at Cap Homme and Ralph Adams Park
Artist: Superflex Collective
It’s like the Aztecs took one of their temples and painted it the perfect shade of bright pink.
Specter (Neon Box)
Where to find: Whitewater at Snowcreek Canyon Road (you can see it from the Highway!)
Artist: Sterling Ruby
A large orange neon box with the snowcapped mountains to one side and the windmill fields to the other. This one was my favorite!!
A Point Of View (Stairs)
Where to find: Mortmar at 70th Ave and Sea View Way
Artist: Iván Argote
A staircase that leads to nowhere… or everywhere?
Where to find: Palm Canyon Drive and Palm Springs Park
Artist: John Gerrard
A giant screen playing a video of a flagpole spewing an endless stream of black smoke. Extra beautiful to see at sunset.
Where to find: Desert Hot Springs at Bubbling Wells Road at San Gorgonio Street
Artist: Kathleen Ryan
Another favorite. Robin couldn’t see it while we were walking up, so I guess the illusion worked on him!
LIST OF ALL THE DESERT X 2019 INSTALLATIONS
Here’s a list of all other Desert X 2019 artists + installations!
Before I Became Afraid
Where to find: Location and dates TBA on app
Artist: Jenny Holzer
Going Nowhere Pavillion
Where to find: Desert Hot Springs on Eliseo Road
Artist: Julian Hoeber
Where to find: Hwy 111 and Tipton Road
Number: 5A + 5B
Artist: Nancy Baker Cahill
Peace Is The Only Shelter
Where to find: Palm Springs (Palm Canyon Drive + Indian Canyon Drive)
Number: 7A – 7C
Artist: Mary Kelly
Where to find: Multiple across the desert. Look at app for each address.
Number: 8A, 8B, 8C, 8D, 8E
Artist: Cinthia Marcelle
Jackrabbit, Cottontail & Spirits of the Desert
Where to find: Palm Springs as Via Escula and Interstate 10
Artist: Cara Romero
Where to find: Sunnylands Center & Gardens
Artist: Iman Issa
It Exists in Many Forms
Where to find: Palm Desert at Santa Rosa Way
Recapturing Memories of The Black Ark
Where to find: Indio at 43143 Jackson Street
Artist: Gary Simmons
Us In The Shape Of Clouds
Where to find: Coachella at Landfill Road and Polk Street
Artist: Armando Lerma
Where to find: Mecca at North Shore Beach and Yacht Club
Artist: Cecilia Bengolea
Terminal Lake Exploration Platform
Where to find: Salton Sea State Park Recreation Area
Artist: Steve Badgett & Chris Taylor
MUST KNOW THINGS BEFORE YOU GO
It may sound like a simple task – find the cross street of an art installation and then go visit, but I picked up some tips I thought were important people know before they do to Desert X along with some key reminders.
Download The App: As I mentioned, download the app before you start!
No Addresses, Just Cross Streets: They aren’t listed as proper addresses but instead cross streets or vague areas. This sometimes makes them hard to find, but that’s half the fun! Keep an eye out for the black and white X sign to mark the spot.
Don’t Drive Up To The Art: Park on the street or in designated parking lots. While at the Ghost Palm, we watched a couple of drive RIGHT up to the art piece – right past signs that say no driving past this sign, right past the TWO parking areas and down a tiny dirt road people were walking on. Don’t be that guy. Use your legs. Be respectful to the art, nature and visitors.
Be Respectful: Important to say twice. Desert X is ART, not a playground or your property. Do not damage the pieces or climb all over them. Pretend like you are in a museum – if you wouldn’t do it in MOMA, don’t do it in the desert.
Take turns: Take turns taking your photos of the pieces. Likely you’ll be viewing them along with other people and everyone wants to take a great photo without you photobombing it. For the most part, I found people were great at taking turns but at Specter, there was a photographer annoyingly snapping photos of a model and he kept walking RIGHT in front of other people’s camera and even bumping into others so he could get his shot. He had an attitude that his photos were more important than someone else, which I found to be really disgusting and also totally the opposite of the point of Desert X (to share art, not hog it. Also, it’s not his art!)
Wear Something Cute: I recommend bright colors and flowy maxi dresses to really pop against the pieces. Also, flat shoes are helpful as you’ll have to walk across the desert floor to reach most of the pieces. Don’t forget water and sunscreen – the desert in Palm Springs can be really brutal come March and April.
Of all the Desert X reviews, I this helps you plan your installations hunt around the California desert! There are a few pieces here that I really wish they could keep up forever because they make me smile (the rainbow and the neon box specifically) but part of the allure of this event is that they are fleeting. (It’s centered around the Coachella dates, leading up to the last weekend of the festival.) I know a lot of people loved the Desert X Mirror House from a couple of years ago but that was removed. I’m already looking forward to next year so I have an excuse to plan another trip to the Palm Desert!
Have questions or things to add, photos of other installations, or more information about one of the pieces? Leave a comment below!! Make sure to follow me on Instagram @thewhimsysoul.