Welcome to my new column, which will feature reviews of and news about of the Coachella Valley art scene.
I have been a resident of the desert for 33 years and have seen so many galleries come and go. The good news is that there are great new galleries sprouting up, to the delight of the art community, which is a rich blend of local artists and transplants from other parts of the country.
I recently met with the gallerist, Woody Shimko, who established a presence in Palm Springs after operating a gallery in Provincetown, Mass., for several years, where during the peak season, more than 100 people an hour came through the doors. The gallery has an eclectic representation of various artists included in a contemporary setting, with photography, large abstract portraits and modern works chosen by Shimko, who has had much experience in gallery management and creative direction on a global scale.
The gallery scene in Palm Springs evokes a feeling of Bohemian Soho and the L.A. Underground, which is chic, hip and radiates a certain street-scene modernity that blends well in the company of the modernism and mid-century dwellings that Palm Springs has catapulted in international consciousness.
Elsewhere in the desert, art-lovers can purchase art ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars—in the galleries on El Paseo in Palm Desert, such as the sterling Heather James Fine Art.
The exhibitions at Heather James are legendary, from contemporary to European impressionists to the masters (such as Rembrandt) with other amazing works by emerging artists, all the way up to blue-chip art at its finest.
When I lecture on early California art, people are often amazed to learn that this entire area developed into an artist colony toward the end of the California gold rush in 1849. Artists from all over the globe came to witness the legends of gold flowing in the streams. An exotic mystique was born, giving a focus to the New West, where California’s reign as the Golden State began.
The artists’ colonies that had developed in the early 1800s moved into the Arroyo Seco near Pasadena, where the great powers of Christianity had helped pave the way to the missions, from Riverside to Indio. These early artists made pilgrimages to experience the majestic mountains with hues of lavender and splendid sunsets beckoning to be painted on canvas, thus forming the plein-air movement of American impressionists.
The Coachella Valley was and is a place of inspirational natural beauty for artists to contemplate and create. I am delighted to see that the art scene continues to flourish—and I look forward to telling you all about it.