Touring Around Desert X 2021 Locations in California

Desert X is a contemporary art exhibition held every other year in Coachella Valley, California. Art experiences are all over the desert and the artists, from all over from the world. Desert X 2021 was both interesting and intriguing, and we really loved touring around finding the art installations!

This spring we spent a week vacationing in Palm Springs. Since Desert X happened to be at the same time, we of course decided to go see some of the art work. We were lucky with our timing, since the exhibition only goes from March 23rd to May 16th. And after that, the art pieces are… BOOM, gone! Never to be seen again! So this was like a once in a lifetime opportunity to go see them. Desert X is quite known in California and people travel from all over the state to see it.


The original purpose of Desert X is to bring attention to Coachella Valley and the environment there. The themes of their exhibitions speak about social matters, and they vary from climate change to immigration, tourism, gambling and the Native American experience. Many of these themes could be seen in art pieces this year too. Some of them seemed to have a very clear and visible message.

This year there were a total of 13 art experiences all over the desert. We didn’t see all of them since driving around actually takes quite a bit of time, and one day we even got stuck in traffic. Yes, there really was a traffic jam in the middle of the desert, and we ended up making a U-turn and calling it quits for the day! We were thinking that the distances between the art pieces were a little bit too long, as I’m sure everyone visiting would like to see them all. But we later learned, that in the last exhibition it had been even worse. The art work was scattered around all the way from Palm Springs to Salton Sea, which is about an hour drive. So they’d made an effort to bring them closer this time round, but clearly it still wasn’t close enough — At least for us.

Another thing to mention, is that it can get extremely hot in Coachella Valley. The first days of our vacation were sunny and 100F. As all the art is presented in the desert, there is no shade or anywhere to hide from the sun. It made some of our visits extremely uncomfortable, and even when we wanted to enjoy the art longer, we were just not able to.

Windmills in Palm Springs California



The first art piece that we saw was Jackrabbit Homestead. This one was actually not located in the desert like most of the other art experiences. It can be found right by the Palm Springs Art Museum in the city of Palm Desert. With this work, the artist Kim Stringfellow, wants to tell the story of the small, abandoned cabins found in the desert close to Joshua Tree National Park. She is an anthropologist and a professor who lives in Joshua Tree. So she knows a thing or two about the desert life around there.

These little cabins, “jackrabbit homesteads”, started to pop up in the desert in the 1930’s. At that time, the Small Tract Act gave people an opportunity to acquire some land. If they rented some land in the desert for at least three years, they could then buy it with some ridiculously low sum like $10. The only condition was that during that time they had to build a house or a cabin on the land they were leasing. This way the government didn’t have to take care of the land they were not using. And people started to buy it just for the sake of owning some land. That is how the jackrabbit homesteads were born.

Kim Stringfellow created a jackrabbit homestead as it would have been back in the day when they were still occupied. Now many of them are abandoned and falling down. A fun thing on our visit to the art piece was that the artist herself was there telling people about her work.

Desert X 2021; Jackrabbit Homestead


I think that Women’s Qualities was one of the art experiences that we enjoyed the most. It was a work by Ghada Amer, who is from Egypt. She designed her first garden in 1997, but she also does a lot of other arts like paintings and sculptures. She designed this garden at Desert X to showcase people living in Coachella Valley. She asked women and men to give her words that other people used to describe them. She used these words in the garden and wrote them with flowers. According to Ghada Amer, women are often expected to fall into modes given to them. That can be seen especially in the history of arts where men used to write the rules. The words she used were placed into the middle of the garden in a circle.

We really liked walking around this garden. The cactus were beautiful and many other plants formed interesting shapes. We would have probably stayed there even longer if it wasn’t so hot that day. This was definitely a nice experience.

Desert X 2021: Women's Qualities
Desert X 2021: Women's Qualities
Desert X: Women's Qualities


As you can see, the American artist Nicholas Galanin got his inspiration from the Hollywood sign. The sign originally said HOLLYWOODLAND and it was first put up in 1923. It was suppose to be a temporary advertisement for a segregated housing complex that was being built close by. With this installation Galanin was making a strong statement that we were actually standing on land taken from the Cahuilla Indians.

Palm Springs and Hollywood has always had a connection as the movie stars living in Hollywood used to vacation in Palm Springs. Even the streets are named after famous actors.

Out of all the art experiences, I think this was the most moving. It really gave me mixed feelings and gave me a lot to think about. I’m glad we were able to see it.

Desert X 2021; Never Forget


This art installation was by a Saudi artist Zahrah Alghamdi. When she first visited Palm Springs she was surprised by how much it reminded her of her homeland. Her work is called What Lies Behind the Walls, and she wanted to tell people that all the walls are unnecessary. We should not be building walls between people and we should always look for what is behind them.

Zahrah Alghamdi likes to work down-to-earth and in this installation she used some sand from both Saudi-Arabia and Palm Springs.

Desert X art: What lies behinf the walls

Other art installations that we weren’t able to see were from Felipe Baeza of Mexico, Serge Attukwei Clottey of Ghana, Alicja Kwade of Poland, Oscar Murillo of Colombia and Xaviera Simmons, Eduardo Sarabia and Christopher Myers from the U. S.. Judy Chicago’s work was cancelled, so we would not have been able to see that one anyway.


We had fun touring around the art experiences even though we weren’t able to see them all. This was a perfect activity for the time of covid, since there is plenty of space to social distance yourself in the desert. And overall, it’s safer to be outside. For a couple of the art pieces, they recommended booking tickets especially when visiting during the weekends. This way they could make sure that there wont be lines, since you have to walk through the art piece. The tickets were free and they went really fast. At least that was my impression when I looked at them. We ended up skipping those experiences, since we had so many other things planned for the week. Desert X 2021 has their own application that shows a map where to find each art installation and explains what they are. It’s easier to find the art while using the app.

Have you visited the Desert X or similar outdoor exhibition somewhere?

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  1. First of all, I like your photos, great frames, and perspective. I have been to California a few times but have had no time to visit Coachella Valley yet. It’s a pity. It seems to be a fabulous place. I hope to visit it one day. The contemporary art exhibition Desert X seems to be intriguing and exciting. All installations are so impressive!

  2. Interesting concept of having installations to make the desert better. I loved the cacti garden the most followed by what lies behind the wall. I am going to google and see the others that you missed. Totally understand though why you had to – it sure is hot and with the jams, might have been frustrating

  3. I have always been interested in art and whenever there is an exhibition around on contemporary art I try & make it there. This is the first time I am hearing about one in Desert X and just love the feel of the place. Walking around the cactus garden looks such a wonderful thing to do too.

  4. This is the first time I heard about the Desert X contemporary art exhibition. Too bad their location are far from each other. Is it so people drive around and stop at businesses along the way? Anyway, the Walls got two thumbs up from me. I also like the cactus garden.

    1. To be honest, I am not sure if it has to something to with the businesses. I think they just wanted people to see Coachella Valley. But it really limits what people will see.

  5. I’m surprised to hear about the Desert X contemporary art exhibition. We live in Los Angeles and passed through Coachella Valley countless times over the years, on our way to Arizona, but never saw this exhibition. I remember though, many years ago, seeing a huge display of yellow umbrellas in this area. Now that you mention Desert X, I’m thinking it might have been in connection with that art exhibition. The cacti display looks lovely too. I wonder whether they are planning to leave them there after the exhibition is over.

    1. I am not sure what they plan to with the garden, I hope they keep it. There are so many fun art experiences at Palm Springs even outside of Desert X but umbrellas might of been part of the old exhibition. I know most of them will be removed after it ends.

  6. I’m always interested in contemporary art exhibitions which are set up in huge natural places. The Botanic Gardens here in Belgium hosts one every year and I love walking all over the several hectares of land spotting artworks. So I guess Desert X is something I’d love. Never Forget is definitely a simple but very touching piece of art. Woman’s Quality is interesting. But 1 hr drive between one art installation and another does sound too much. Traffic jam? That’s definitely too much!

    1. Even though the idea of scattering the art around the desert sounds great, it really took away from our experience a little. We didn’t see as many art pieces as we hoped and I couldn’t help thinking that having people drive around is not very ecological either. I wish they would put them a little closer to each others.

  7. This looks like a wonderful experience of contemporary art and I would absolutely love to visit Desert X. The garden by Ghada Amer is lovely – what are they going to do with the cactus when the show is over? Will she tranplant them to another exhibition?

  8. We are sorry we missed Desert X when we visited Palm Springs. We visited too early in the year. But we did find such an interesting array of art on our visit. So not surprised that Desert X would bring more into the area. I like the idea of art being created with natural materials. Not seeing them all gives you a good reason to plan a return trip.

    1. There is so much art around the area anyway, that you can easily create your own little "art tour " even if Desert X is not happening during trip. Palm Springs is so much fun!

  9. Wow, I had no idea they did this in Coachella Valley! All the more reasons to visit California. I’m sure it was sweltering hot but well worth it.

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