Mary Kelly, Sterling Ruby, and 17 Other Artists Will Bring Their Star Power to the Coachella Valley for the Second Edition of Desert X

The free exhibition takes place all over the landscape, and will highlight issues such as the impending crisis of climate change.

Doug Aitken's Mirage (2017) featured prominently at the inaugural edition of Desert X. Photo: Lance Gerber. Courtesy of the artist, 303 Gallery, Desert X.

Desert X is ramping up preparations for its sophomore edition, set to open February 9. The completely free and publicly accessible art event runs through April 21 across California’s picturesque Coachella Valley.

The biennial is once again led by artistic director Neville Wakefield along with co-curators Amanda Hunt and Matthew Schum, who commissioned an impressive roster of 19 international artists to create site-specific works for the event.

In addition to the individual works (whose locations will be revealed closer to the opening) programming includes live performances, film projects, and a lecture series in and around the Valley, all of which are geared toward enhancing our understanding and appreciation of the unique landscape.

Phillip K. Smith The Circle of Land and Sky (2017). Photo Lance Gerber, courtesy Desert X.

Phillip K. Smith The Circle of Land and Sky (2017). Photo Lance Gerber, courtesy Desert X.

This year, the footprint of the exhibition is expanded to include the nearby Salton Sea, which will be the focus of the Desert, Why? symposium, hosted by the Palm Springs Art museum to address issues including the impending crisis of climate change.

Many visitors will be familiar with at least a handful of the participating artists, chief among them Jenny Holzer, who will present BEFORE I BECAME AFRAID, 2019. The work will juxtapose poetry addressing gun violence and other social issues against the stark landscape of the mountains, culminating in a mountainside projection at Whitewater Preserve.

Desert X Landscape. Photo: © 2019 Lance Gerber.

Desert X Landscape. Photo: © 2019 Lance Gerber.

Sterling Ruby’s contribution, titled SPECTER, is teased as involving a “jarring optical illusion,” which is certainly something to look out for in the coming weeks.

We’re already queuing up portrait mode to capture these works in all their glory when the show opens February 9. But until then, check out the full list of participating artists below.


Iván Argote

Nancy Baker Cahill

Cecilia Bengolea

Pia Camil

John Gerrard

Julian Hoeber

Jenny Holzer

Iman Issa

Mary Kelly

Armando Lerma

Eric N. Mack

Cinthia Marcelle


Cara Romero

Kathleen Ryan

Gary Simmons


Sterling Ruby

Chris Taylor & Steve Badgett

Update: Jenny Holzer’s project has been cancelled due to concerns that her work may affect local wildlife.

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