Happy Coachella 2023! One of our favorite parts of the festival each year is the first glimpse of the new art installations at Empire Polo Field. Works are commissioned from artists around the world, and these large-scale, immersive pieces have become a highlight of the two-weekend event.
“Surprise encounters with these outsized projects in the middle of the valley, surrounded by music and the collective energy of the crowd has become a much-anticipated shared experience at the Festival, and some of the works have been woven into the archetypal imagery of Coachella,” says Paul Clemente, who manages the art program for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
“In selecting projects from around the world, our intention is to bring together artists, architects and designers whose practices invite participation, inclusion, and transformation,” adds curatorial advisor Raffi Lehrer. “We strive to create a multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural program that reflects our audience and the many performing artists that grace the stages of the festival. The resulting works will become icons — part of the identity of this year’s show. These installations act simultaneously as way-finding markers, points of congregation, and most importantly, accessible entry points for all show-goers to experience art.”
This year’s art installations include four new works. Los Angeles–based artist Maggie West has created Eden, one of the world’s largest 3-D photography installations. West’s floral photographs are reproduced on 20 steel structures, each covered with wood and vinyl, ranging from 6 to 56 feet tall. Lighting (not Photoshop) is used to color the photographs, and after dark the piece becomes a vibrant light show thanks to mapped projections on the sculptures.
The Messengers by Kumkum Fernando features three monolithic figures that appear as giant robots or idols. Fernando, who is Sri Lankan and lives in Vietnam, was inspired by the vivid colors of South Asian art and architecture, as well as folk tales of gods and demons from his childhood. The massive figures stand from 65 to 85 feet tall, each with a base of steps where festival attendees can gather.
Molecular Cloud by Paris-based artist Vincent Leroy imagines molecular clouds in the form of light, glossy inflatable objects floating above the festival field. The artwork slowly changes, forming organic shapes that reflect its surroundings. As you move closer to the massive mobiles, the ground, people, and sky appear in Molecular Cloud’s reflective surfaces.
Los Angeles–based artist and architect Güvenç Özel engages the spectrum of human experience, from the physical to the virtual, with his 60-foot-tall piece, Holoflux. It is intended as a portal to a broad digital ecosystem of ever-changing forms that you experience throughout the day. At night, the reflective surfaces of the sculpture’s spherical forms become lighting features, pulsating bright colors, and projections of real-time video showing the festival create an effect in which the sculpture appears to become invisible, and then reappears.
Returning works include Spectra, the seven-floor architecturally-inspired multicolor pavilion, Robert Bose’s quarter-mile-long kinetic Balloon Chain, and Don Kennell’s Mustang, as well as interactive experiences by Coachella Art Studios, Raices Cultura, and Do LaB. Weekend one of Coachella 2023 runs from April 14-16, and weekend two is April 21-23. For more information about the festival, visit coachella.com.