In more ways than one, Palm Springs, California is an oasis. Known mainly for its iconic specimens of modernist architecture and design, the desert town is also home to a museum and a clutch of more than 60 galleries. The town is betting that the groundwork has been laid to further itself as a destination for culture: This weekend marks the opening of the first-ever Palm Springs Fine Art Fair, the latest stop on the ever-growing art-fair circuit.
The event is set to coincide with a citywide initiative known as Modernism Week, an 11-day series of lectures, films, and tours which explore desert modernism, the mid-century style that made Palm Springs a locus of American architectural history. Most of the exhibitors are from the Southwest, but representatives from the East Coast and Midwest are expected to put in appearances as well.
For the 47 galleries participating, the focus at this year’s fair, which runs February 17-19, is on two-dimensional work. San Francisco’s Caldwell Snyder Gallery will be showing Pop-centric paintings by Melissa Chandon, while Yares Art Projects of Santa Fe will exhibit works by the eminent Abstract Expressionists Milton Avery and Hans Hoffman. The Etherton Gallery of Tucson will show rare vintage prints from Richard Misrach’s “Night Desert” series, and La Jolla, California's Scott White Gallery will exhibit photographs by Stephanie Schneider, a surreal portraitist of life in rural California. The fair also includes a public installation dedicated to the work of Judy Chicago, doubling as a retrospective for the famous feminist artist. Chicago will be presented with a lifetime achievement award at the event's opening on Thursday night.
Given Palm Springs’s history as a playground for Hollywood royalty, it’s not surprising that much of the weekend’s festivities should also be devoted to contemporary cinema. The Arts League Project booth will offer a screening of the short film “Uso Justo,” followed by a discussion with filmmaker Coleman Miller and sculptor and actor Daniel Stern (of “City Slickers” and “Home Alone” fame). The fair will also present actor and director Cheech Marin (“Up in Smoke,” “Things Are Tough All Over”) with the Arts Patron of the Year award, in recognition of his outstanding and well-known support of Chicano art, film, and theater.