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Desert X Is Coachella Valley’s Biggest Art Event—Here’s How to See It

AFAR MAGAZINE: By Mae Hamilton

The biennial outdoor art extravaganza Desert X is back in all of its strange and provocative glory now through May 7. One of the biggest art celebrations in Southern California, Desert X is known for its large-scale, free-to-the-public art exhibits (past exhibitions have included a Hollywood sign-esque piece that read “Indian Land” and a silk and tulle adorned gas station). This year, the sculptures on display focus on everything from the precarious environmental status of the Salton Sea to the history of Black and Indigenous women in the United States. Desert X happens only once every two years, so it’s best to be prepared to get the most out of your time there.

Here’s everything you need to know about planning a trip to Desert X 2023:

What is Desert X?

Desert X is a biennial site-specific, contemporary art exhibition in the Coachella Valley. It was founded in 2017 by the nonprofit organization Desert Biennial, which is dedicated to using art to start dialogues about contemporary social, cultural, and environmental issues. The folks of Desert Biennial loved the conversations that art can spark, but they found museums somewhat stifling and constrictive—and what better alternative is there to a door and four walls than the wide open spaces of the Southern Californian desert?

In its inaugural year, Desert X featured provocative exhibitions like an underground bunker that housed a sculpture of John F. Kennedy and a “ShyBot” that was programmed to avoid people designed by Italian artist Norma Jeane. In the six years since, Desert X has grown by leaps and bounds and even launched a Saudi Arabian edition in collaboration with the Royal Commission of AlUla. This year, Desert X will feature the work of 12 international artists whose large-scale work will be located (these locations are highly considered and in many cases, site-responsive) at destinations throughout the Coachella Valley.

Where to stay in the greater Palm Springs area

Azure Sky

This adults-only property strikes the perfect balance between midcentury-modern details and desert-inspired chic. Azure Sky has 14 rooms (11 of which have private patios) as well as an on-site heated pool and cocktail bar. The hotel is a five-minute drive from the bright lights of downtown Palm Springs.