When it comes to museums, people either love them or hate them. There's very rarely any in between. For the lovers, there's culture, history, and a tangible connection to art and learning that can't be understated. The haters? Well, they just find museums “boring,” or perhaps they can’t imagine that a museum smaller than the Guggenheim, MOMA or The Prado could be worthwhile. I’m here to tell you if that’s what you think, you haven’t seen the collection at the Palm Springs Art Museum
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that it took me nearly 12 years of visiting Palm Springs before I made my first trip to the museum. I always had something else to do, someplace to go, or different sites or wonders to see. It turns out I was missing out big time on one of Palm Springs’ finest treasures.
Palm Springs Art Museum isn’t what you think
If you think the Palm Springs Art Museum is overloaded with modernism, modern design, or desert whimsy, you'd be wrong.
One of the most surprising aspect of this museum is its stunning diversity of art, sculpture, and objects, from a vast variety of genres. During a recent visit, there was a very interesting display of cowboy and western art on the lower level. Everything from drawings to paintings, each with a fascinating backstory and history laid out.
The modern-lover in me delighted in a small exhibit featuring table and chair-scapes. Iconic modern chairs and tables were set up as though ready to accommodate lunch for two, and each of the small vignettes was accessorized with fascinating objects from the 50s and 60s. Everything from ashtrays, to tea sets and a vintage television.
There’s modern art, but also sculpture & unusual installations
There’s an absolutely stunning amount of amazing sculpture inside this building. An entire wing of the museum is devoted to a series of 61 sculptures, many of which used to live outdoors at the Weiner family estate.
Some of the sculptures are car-sized, while others are more diminutive. The pebbled bronzes and other modern art works are remarkable, and the museum considers it one of the most important collections of modern art ever assembled in the Southwest.
There's also art for those with more whimsical tastes, including an absolutely entertaining stack of giant plastic plates, a melting Persian rug, and even a wall installation involving toast. You’ll also do a double take when you meet the ‘couple at the top of the stairs’. That's all I'll say about that here, as the element of surprise makes reactions to this unusual installation priceless.
Tour the home of a ‘starchitect’
Usually, the Palm Springs Art Museum also owns a house in its permanent collection. Available for viewing by special appointment, or by booking a tour from The Modern Tour
, visitors can step inside the iconic Frey II House on the hill overlooking the Museum. This former residence of renowned architect Albert Frey is a study in modernist minimalism and has remained virtually untouched since he last set foot in it.
If you have an interest in modernism and modern architecture, this is a rare and outstanding opportunity to see a piece of architectural history most people will never be able to access.
See the Architecture & Design Centre
There's another piece to the museum puzzle; the newer Architecture and Design Center
on Palm Canyon Road. This former bank building is an architectural marvel in and of itself. But it houses the museum’s vast collection of architectural and design objects. Inside you can see everything from furniture, to architectural drawings, to sketches by iconic architects. The exhibits are ever-changing and always interesting.
Don’t wait as long as I did. Make the Palm Springs Art Museum or the Architecture and Design Centre a priority stop during your visit to Palm Springs.