Art, in one form or another, is everywhere in Palm Springs. Palm Springs Art Museum combines art and architecture in one compelling package. One of the nation’s top small-city art museums, it’s also the hub of Greater Palm Springs’ art community. Renowned modernist architect E. Stewart Williams designed the 1976 museum; it’s in the heart of downtown, dramatically set against the mountain. The permanent collection focuses on Modern and Native American art; changing exhibitions feature all types of media. Wander the Marcuse Sculpture Garden or enjoy it from the Muse Café patio. Check the website for docent tours, talks and events.

Nearby on Palm Canyon Drive, the Architecture and Design Center at the Edwards Harris Pavilion is the newest ‘wing’ of the Art Museum, with free admission to special exhibitions.  It’s worth visiting alone for the beautiful restoration of an iconic midcentury building. Formerly the Federal Savings & Loan (1961), the structure was also designed by E. Stewart Williams.

Palm Springs is a world-class destination for midcentury modern architecture. Modernism Week attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year for its tours, talks, and parties during October preview weekend and the main event in February. 

modernism week bus

Throughout the year, discover the city’s architecture via specialist tours. Visit Wexler’s famed steel houses, Cody’s celebrated Del Marcos Hotel, admire Neutra’s Kaufman House, explore the Krisels in Twin Palms and wonder at the iconic former gas station, now Visitor Center, designed by Albert Frey

Guided architecture tours are the quickest way to find the city’s treasures. Driving tours include PS Mod Squad with writer and designer Kurt Cyr, or Palm Springs Modern Tours run by preservationist and architecture buff Robert Imber.   Certain tours take you inside homes too.  The A&D Center’s ‘Modern Tour’ is led by author and expert Michael Stern.  Extended tours take in Frey House II, one of the city’s most important residences, in the care of the Palm Springs Art Museum. Discover the town on foot with knowledgeable Palm Springs native and historian Jade Thomas Nelson at PS Walk With Me.

Preservation organization PSModcom’s self-guided tours app, ‘Mid Century Modern Architecture Tour App’ is great for neighborhood itineraries and information about  iconic architects and their unique approach to desert design. 

Kauffman House

Find public art all over town in the shape of sculpture, murals, fountains – even artist-designed bike racks, with a downloadable map featuring photographs and information about each of the 65 public artworks, from the City of Palm Springs’ Public Art Program.

‘Forever Marilyn,’ the giant sculpture of Marilyn Monroe by Seward Johnson, became the city’s star attraction during its two-year stay on Palm Canyon Drive until late 2014.  It’s scheduled to return to a new downtown park. Watch for its return!

The destination’s oldest art establishment, the Desert Art Center, has combined art education, including classes in life drawing and oil painting, with a community art gallery and art outreach programs since 1950. Events include artist receptions and critique salons. The center is located in the former school building on Palm Canyon Drive, next to Frances Stevens Park.

At the Backstreet Art District in South Palm Springs, you can visit working art studios, meet the artists and start or add to your own collection. The district’s Art Walk takes place on the first Wednesday of every month, year-round, from 6 – 9pm.

Fine art fairs are a regular feature of the city’s visual arts scene. In mid-February, Art Palm Springs takes place at the Palm Springs Convention Center, hosting leading national galleries selling the best in post-war and contemporary art. From November through March, the Desert Arts Festival features more than 60 California artists at free fairs held monthly at Frances Stevens Park in the center of town.

Nearby, Palm Springs’ humming Design District has several art galleries. The Shag Store and gallery is a hotspot for style fans, featuring the artist Shag’s unique take on the Palm Springs lifestyle expressed in his original artwork, prints and merchandise.