words • liz rice mccray
This month we ventured to the dessert (Palm Springs, California) to see one of the most anticipated art exhibitions of the year, Desert X. The exhibition was curated by internationally renowned curator, Neville Wakefield, who activated the desert landscape as a canvas for commissioned, site-specific artworks and installation projects by some of today’s most recognized international contemporary artists, including Doug Aitken, Lita Albuquerque, Jennifer Bolande, Will Boone, Claudia Comte, Jeffrey Gibson, Sherin Guirguis, Norma Jeane, Glenn Kaino, Gabriel Kuri, Armando Lerma, Richard Prince, Rob Pruitt, Julião Sarmento, Phillip K. Smith III and Tavares Strachan.

Desert X offered selected artists non-traditional as well as institutional venues with which to engage, including spaces at Palm Springs Art Museum and Sunnylands Center & Gardens, where commissioned artworks amplified and cast a gimlet eye on the geographies, ethnic/social and historical/geologic layers that exist in the Southern California desert, while also looking to major movements in contemporary art worldwide.

Artistic Director Neville Wakefield stated, “The desert has long exercised its fascination over the minds of artists, architects, musicians, writers and other explorers of landscape and soul. From the theological cast of the Biblical desert wilderness to the secular observations of Joan Didion’s Holy Water, it is a place of scarcity, of stark contrasts, crude survival, mystery and transformation. But it is this very inhospitality towards life that has in part made it receptive to new forms. Desert X will harness and combine the matchless spectacle of the geologic epic, the radical abstraction of the surroundings and the singular incursions of man into the seemingly barren landscape.”

The organization’s board of directors includes creative and cultural professionals from a cross-section of disciplines and backgrounds who are working internationally and within the local community in contemporary art, music, film, and philanthropy. Many serve on the boards of major arts institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Park Avenue Armory Conservancy, the New Museum, the Hammer Museum, Film Independent, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Serpentine Galleries, Creative Time, Nasher Sculpture Center, and the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.

Desert X is currently funded by its board of directors, philanthropists well known to the desert community and has received generous support from organizations and commercial entities doing business in the region, including program partners such as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Palm Springs Art Museum, Art Los Angeles Contemporary, and Sunnylands Center & Gardens.

Desert X was open to the public from Saturday, February 25 until April 30, 2017 at sites across the California Desert. For more info and photos from this year’s exhibition be sure to visit