- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Palm Springs, California
It may look like a mini mall, but the Backstreet Art District in Palm Springs is actually a pretty sweet little enclave of local galleries exhibiting desert-inspired art. The first Wednesday of every month, the collective is open late for a salon-style stroll full of snacks and wine. It's not the Downtown Art Walk, but it's still worth seeing.
Meanwhile, over in Rancho Mirage, the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands is the former winter home of Walter Annenberg and his wife, Leonore. Now promoted as the "Camp David of the West Coast," Sunnylands is a historic house museum with items from the Annenbergs' massive art collection, including pieces by Giacometti and Rodin. Walter bequeathed much of his collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so after he died, his widow commissioned grade-A reproductions to keep the walls from being too bare. (Sunnylands is also the couple's final resting place.)
Then there's the upcoming debut of the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair, which specializes in postwar and contemporary art. The inaugural edition features The Big Picture, Paintings From Southern California,1960-1980, an exhibition curated by Peter Frank, as well as Material Girl, an exhibition of works by Judy Chicago, who's also receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the fair.
Finally, Pacific Standard Time isn't just about Los Angeles -- it covers midcentury art in all of Southern California, and that includes the Coachella Valley. Beginning Jan. 21, the Palm Springs Art Museum is exhibiting Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982, featuring 140 works of archival photography by David Hockney, Herb Ritts, Ed Ruscha, Julius Shulman and more. But the museum is worth visiting outside of the Pacific Standard Time zone, if for no other reason than its small but pricy collection of modern art, which includes a $10 million spider by Louise Bourgeois and a 1964 "Brillo Box Dress" by Andy Warhol.
With 11 days' worth of midcentury marvels, Palm Springs Modernism Week is on its way to becoming Modernism Month. The extended celebration of architecture, design and fashion appeals to both experts and fans of modernism -- a design aesthetic defined by an elegant simplicity that's tastefully complemented by exotic cocktails, poolside parties and a free-spirited ideology, all giving the movement its singularly Californian twist. From Feb. 16-26, Modernism Week rolled out nonstop lectures, symposiums, double-decker bus tours and film screenings. But you don't have to go during Modernism Week to appreciate 20th-century Palm Springs history. Architectural historian Robert Imber of PS Modern Tours gives guided tours year-round, while the burgeoning Uptown Design District features a range of hip and eclectic boutiques, offering everything from funky home furnishings to vintage couture -- all from the Mad Men era and beyond.
Many, many film fests
Since it first launched in 1989, the annual Palm Springs International Film Festival in January has come to be known for presenting the foreign-language Oscar nominees. In 2011, it screened 193 films from 68 countries, including 59 premieres. This year, it honored George Clooney. PSIFF is hosted by the Palm Springs International Film Society, who also puts on the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films (aka ShortFest) in June. There's also the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, Cinema Diverse and the Festival of Native Film & Culture. With the desert's fervent focus on film, who needs Hollywood?