Art Lovers’ Guide to Palm Springs    - Visit Palm Springs tag-img

Art Lovers’ Guide to Palm Springs   

Jungle Red by Delos Van Earl

By Barbara Beckley

Fine art. Fun art. The world class Palm Springs Art Museum. Renowned art galleries. Commissioned Public Art everywhere.

Now you can add “Art” to Palm Springs’ list of irresistible attractions.

 Great art has the power to transform,” says Christian Hohmann, Palm Springs public art booster and second generation fine art dealer. “Public art has transformed many cities – for example Bilbao, Spain. Today, Palm Springs’ exceptional collection is transforming it into an art mecca.”

Downtown Art & Sculpture

 Newest on the Palm Springs art scene is the city’s sizeable – and growing – public art collection. Begin your viewing in Downtown. But keep an eye out. Commissioned works are all over town – decorating hotels, restaurants, shops, thrift stores. Even benches.

Like all things Palm Springs – the art scene has a celebrity connection. No. We’re not talking “Forever Marilyn,” the 26-foot-tall pop art statue of Marilyn Monroe that’s taken the selfie world by storm. (More about Her later…). Palm Springs’ public art was born out of a 1988 decree by then-mayor Sonny Bono (of Sonny & Cher fame) and creation of the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission to bring art into the city. Its first installation in 1988, the brightly colored “Rainmaker Fountain,” is still bobbing and gushing water in Frances Stevens Park at the corner of North Palm Canyon Drive and Alejo Road.

francis stevens park fountain

Drive a few blocks into the center of Downtown – and wow! Art has taken over. “Public art has come a long way,” enthused Matthew Lesniak, one of the seven commissioners on the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission. “We oversee a collection of more than 100 pieces now; purchased throughout the history of the commission.” Of course, the commission isn’t the only art-centric enthusiast. “Palm Springs’ dramatic light, and desert landscape has attracted artists since the early 1900s,” Lesniak explained. “And today, so many special events like Desert X and Coachella are attracting young creative types.”

desert x art

Some of the most talked-about pieces of the Palm Springs art scene are located behind The Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs hotel. “The Palm Springs Babies” are crawling around on all fours in a pit. Look up! One is even creeping up on the hotel. Created by Czech Republic artist David Cerny, each of the 10, eight-foot-long baby sculptures.  With barcodes instead of faces –  it brings a Euro cache, having been displayed in London, Germany, Prague and the Netherlands prior to their 2018 installation in Palm Springs.

Why barcodes? “It’s an example of today’s technology-driven world and impact on the next generation. The Babies symbolize the loss of humanity. Their bar-code faces are a ‘wake-up call’,” explains Cerny. As a viewer, feel free to “judge” The Babies. As Michael Braun, president of Grit Development, who with Hohmann brought The Babies here from the Czech Republic, explained in a Palm Springs Life article, “An art installation allows for a hypothetical conversation, a discourse where all opinions are allowed.”

A few steps away, “Forever Marilyn” poses in her billowing white skirt at the corner of Museum Way and Belardo Road, recreating one of Marilyn Monroe’s most famous images taken from Billy Wilder’s 1955 film The Seven Year Itch.

Marilyn Monroe

Originally a temporary installation in 2012, the giant statue was so so popular, it was purchased by P.S. Resorts and other private organizations and returned June 21, 2021 to reign in glory. This is the city where legend says the super star was “discovered” at a Racquet Club pool party. Weighing in at 24,000 pounds, sculptor Seward Johnson used stainless steel and aluminum covered in a unique patina involving 10 layers of hues with a matte finish– except for her glossy lips, toe nails and pearlized glaze on her earrings – to achieve an extremely realistic look, especially in her skin tones. And the perfect backdrop for millions of selfies.

Walking to the other side of The Rowan, more artwork demands attention. Another woman – “Isabelle,” a fine art polished stainless steel sculpture – rocks a hypnotic ambiance, seemingly changing form as you move around her glimmering surface.

Created by German quantum physicist-turned artist Julian Voss-Andreae, every detail from her shifting silver hues and see-through elements make viewing an extraordinary experience. Diagonally in front of “Isabelle,” a mural of angel wings, named “Stay Human” by Colette Miller, offers a playful selfie.

art wings

The Palm Springs Art Museum

A work of art itself designed by mid-century master architect E. Steward Williams, the Palm Springs Art Museum, on North Museum Way in Downtown. It’s the must-see crown jewel of Palm Springs’ passion for art. “Palm Springs’ midcentury architecture has greatly contributed to the city’s reputation as a place of style and creative expression,” notes Scott Slaven, art museum marketing director. So the museum is a doubly perfect space for modern and contemporary works by Henry Moore, Dale Chihully, Andy Warhol, David Alfaro Siqueiros, America’s West and hundreds more.

Palm Springs Art Museum

To make the most of your visit, Slaven recommends viewing the temporary exhibitions on either side of the lobby first; then farther back to the special-focus galleries with glass works and Western and California art (often by Palm Springs early artists and movie stars). On the second floor you’ll find modern art, while the third floor showcases contemporary works from the permanent collection and special loans.

art museum

If you still have time, view the two outdoor sculpture gardens. One can be accessed through the Persimmon Bistro & Wine Bar – perhaps time out for a Palm Springs’ legendary happy hour! Take advantage of the museum’s Free Thursday Nights program! Admission is free from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. Curators and docents are often on hand for insightful conversation.

If you’re interested in more about Palm Springs’ incredible midcentury architecture, visit the art museum’s auxiliary location: The Architecture and Design Center five blocks away on South Palm Canyon Drive. It’s the hub of the museum’s exploration of architecture and design, and houses related exhibitions as well as educational and community programs.

Palm Springs architecture museum

 Art Beyond Downtown   

Keep your hands on the wheel – and your eyes open for art! The Palm Springs art scene is truly everywhere. Driving in from LA, the colorful mural, “Woman in Glasses,” by James Haunt & Zes MSK, splashed across the side of a building at 2481-2483 North Palm Canyon Drive, announces you’ve arrived in art-land.

women in glasses by James Haunt

Up and down North Palm Canyon Drive, South Palm Canyon Drive, Indian Canyon Drive, at the Palm Springs Convention Center and elsewhere, more than 50 cement benches double as whimsical art installations – abstracts, poems, scenes like a rubber ducky in the pool.

art benches

Larger-than-life metal sculpture horses, “The Art of Taming Horses” by Christopher Myers, prance down the median along Tahquitz Canyon Way.

“Popsicles” by painted-plywood cut-out artist John Cerney (he’s the guy who creates those huge cool cut-out figures in the Central Valley), pop up from five gigantic hands at 605 Sunny Dunes Road.

popsicle art

And “TOT,” the three-foot stainless steel sculpture of a toddler by Richard Becker, is at the ready in yellow goggles and blue trunks at The Palm Springs Swim Center. All thanks to the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission.

TOT sculpture by richard becker

Art Galleries & Studios

From internationally recognized local artists to up-and-comers and listed artists domestic and around the world, Palm Springs galleries are a collector’s dream.

Backstreet Art District

First up – The Backstreet Art District, a must-visit enclave of working studios and galleries from many of Palm Springs’ nationally and internationally recognized artists. You’ll find all mediums and sometimes even performance art. Meet and watch the artists at work on the First Wednesday Art Walk, 5 – 8 p.m., the first Wednesday of each month.

backstreet art district outside wall

Galleries include the Gary Wexler Serigraph Studio, with original screen-printed art on paper by Gary Wexler, son of legendary midcentury architect Donald Wexler. The Artize Gallery boasting the first and only “Art-O-Matic” machine in the Coachella Valley and internationally-collected California artists.

art o mat

Galleria Marconi, a collection of Palm Springs’ oh so popular “Shoe Art” and other artistic whimsy. The Ola Vista Studio with the bold colors of artist/owner Russell James Carlson, in landscapes, cosmic, contemporary and mid-century. Skipton Art, where rhythm and texture define Keith Skipton’s abstract works. Tom Ross Gallery showing abstracts using owner/artist Tom Rosenberg’s “reverse” painting technique. (You’ve seen Rosenberg’s art on Sonoma wine labels.)

tom ross gallery

Other Local Art Galleries

Then peruse the myriad stand-alone galleries. To name a few … long-time Stewart Galleries is known for its eclectic selection of fine art by noted Californian and American Impressionist, Modernist and Plein Air painters as well as paintings and sculpture by listed European and South American artists in endless styles and mediums.

Capture the spirit of Palm Springs modernism in bold colors, bolder characters and whimsical themes at The Shag Store gallery featuring the prints and original work of artist Shag, aka Josh Agle. Ask about the next Saturday evening cocktails-and-live-music Release Party. They’re free, open to the public and always fun.

Artist Josh Agle, known as Shag

Put the Hohmann Fine Art Gallery Showroom at The Kimpton Rowan building on the top of your list. Remember, Hohmann is responsible for “The Palm Springs Babies.”

Also, Rubine Red Gallery specializing in 1950s-‘60s mid-century contemporary visual artists and the New Contemporary Art movement from California, the Midwest and beyond! Its finely curated collection spans decades — from midcentury to cutting-edge contemporary, including pop art, abstract expressionism, sculpture and photography. Rubine Red is the exclusive estate representative of Palm Springs painter Reginald Pollack and world-renowned printmaker Malcolm Myers. Plus emerging and established contemporary artists.

rubine gallery

LA-based The Pit gallery, co-owned by artists Adam D. Miller and Devon Oder, recently added its line-up of emerging and mid-career contemporary artists to the Palm Springs art scene. It’s further proof of Palm Springs’ increasing clout within the art world – featuring themes from landscapes and domestic to the exotic; abstract and surreal.

Also Brian Marki Fine Art & Framing has a unique collection of post war, modern and emerging contemporary artists’ painting, sculpture and photography.

The Terry Masters Studio features the sought-after Plein Air desert paintings of local master Plein Air artist and KPSI radio DJ, Terry Masters, who sadly passed away in 2021. En plein air is a French expression meaning “in the open air”, and refers to the act of painting outdoors with the artist’s subject in full view. Plein Air artists capture the spirit and essence of a landscape or subject by incorporating natural light, color and movement into their works.

terry masters art painting

Art Spaces

Follow the celebrities to innovative Janssen Artspace featuring live painting and drawing “performances” by artist/owner Steven Janssen along with his organic/abstract works and those of other artists. Janssen’s clients include Jennifer Aniston, Mario Lopez and Lucy Lui.

Finally, do it yourself. Take an art class at the Desert Art Center, a premiere artist’ cooperative with exhibitions of juried member artists, daily art classes in a variety of mediums and monthly artist demos.

the desert art center




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