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For four days, the Palm Springs Convention Center’s main exhibition hall will essentially become a $100 million pop-up gallery.

The third annual Palm Springs Fine Art Fair (PSFAF) will showcase the full gamut of modern and contemporary art from Thursday, Feb. 13, through Sunday, Feb. 16.

In just three years, the Palm Springs Fine Arts Fair has become a must-do event for art-lovers. From 2012 to 2013, attendance increased from 9,500 to 12,000. This year, Rick Friedman, the show’s organizer, projects attendance will exceed 14,000.

Every available inch of the Convention Center’s Exhibition Hall is reserved for art, presented by some 60 participating galleries. Only a quarter of the exhibitors are from Southern California; in fact, participants come from all over the United States and the world: This year, the Palm Springs Convention Center will become the temporary home to galleries from Great Britain, London, Brussels, France, South Korea, Canada, and Argentina.

The Fine Arts Fair celebrates artists both well-recognized and emerging. Artists in the spotlight this year include Karel Appel, Le Corbusier, Fernand Léger, Henry Jackson, Frank Stella, Raymond Jonson, Addison Rowe, Pablo Picasso, Kenneth Noland, Cecily Brown, Eric Orr, Claes Oldenburg, Melissa Chandon, Chul Hyun Ahn, David Middlebrook, Devorah Sperber and Mel Ramos.

One of the fair’s central pieces, literally and figuratively, will be Steve Maloney’s "Ride-em-Cowboy." This sculpture was created using a decommissioned Bell JetRanger helicopter and a longhorn steer skull. Maloney adorned both the inside and the outside with thousands of colored gemstones; it also includes a Swarovski crystal chandelier and old cowhide chairs. Finally, an iPad serves as a virtual flight simulator. (Of course it does!) Palm Desert’s Heather James Fine Art gets credit for bringing Maloney’s work to the fair.

Beyond allowing attendees to experience great art, the Fine Art Fair sponsors educational programs for everyone one from non-collectors and novices to the most seasoned collectors.

Some highlights on the schedule (which, of course, is subject to change; visit palmspringsfineartfair.com for an up-to-date schedule):

• Non-collectors and collectors alike can meet the four artists showcased in the fair’s public exhibition, DRY HEAT—4 Artists in the California Desert. On Saturday, Feb. 15, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., the exhibit’s curator, Steve Biller, will moderate a panel featuring the four artists: Kim Stringfellow, Phillip K. Smith III, Cristopher Cichocki and Scott B. Davis. These artists have been creating site-specific works focusing on the desert’s natural, social and cultural landscape.

• Beginning collectors can gain insights from the panel discussion Art of Collecting 101, slated from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15; meanwhile, other programs are geared toward particular interests of serious collectors. From 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14, a panel discussion, The Art of Giving, will discuss philanthropic aspects of giving fine art to a charitable organization or museum. And on Sunday, Feb. 16, from 1 to 2 p.m., Art as a Legacy will be a panel discussion geared toward those who recognize that their collection needs to be a meaningful and distinct part of their estate.

• Palm Springs resident and philanthropist Harold Matzner will be honored as 2014 Arts Patron of the Year. Matzner’s commitment to the arts here in the desert is unparalleled; he is chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, chairman of the McCallum Theatre, and vice president on the board of trustees at Palm Springs Art Museum. Matzner will receive his award at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13, at a VIP event.

• At 5 p.m., on Friday, Feb. 14, Los Angeles-based photographer Greg Gorman will receive the 2014 Photographer of the Year award. From celebrity portraits and advertising campaigns to magazine layouts and fine art work, Gorman has developed and showcased his own unique style.

“I try to capture the essence of each individual,” Gorman says about his photography.

When looking at Gorman’s imagery, it becomes clear that his most successful photographs leave something to the imagination.

Gorman will be interviewed by Desert Outlook editor Will Dean, following an introduction by actor Udo Kier.

• Acclaimed artist Jennifer Bartlett will receive the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award at 11:30 a.m., Friday, Feb. 14. Throughout her 50-year career, this Long Beach artist, now 73, has remained a prominent and controversial force in the creative world. She keeps evolving as an artist: Her work consistently contains both paradoxes and contradictions. Irrespective of medium, size and subject, she creates imagery that requires viewers to take a second look.

A mini-retrospective of Bartlett’s work, Jennifer Bartlett: 50 Years on the Grid, curated by exhibitor Imago Galleries (of Palm Desert), will be shown near the entrance to the fair.

The Palm Springs Fine Arts Fair takes place Thursday, Feb. 13, through Sunday, Feb. 16, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros. Tickets range from $25 for a day pass to $250 for an all-access black card. For passes or more information, call 631-283-5505, or visit palmspringsfineartfair.com.

Based in Cathedral City, Victor Barocas is a photographer, author and educator/business coach. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Below: Greg Gorman's "Andy Warhol."

Published in Visual Arts

Meet Richard Almada. Several months ago, he launched Desert Art Tours, a new business that offers … well, just what the name says: tours, organized and hosted by Almada, that offer attendees a chance to take in a variety of art in the desert and beyond.

Almada has experience in the arts, cosmetics and real estate worlds over his 30-plus year career. As someone who does not know a whole lot about gallery/visual arts, I decided to talk to Almada about the valley’s arts scene, and where Desert Art Tours fits in.

Consider yourself warned (in a good way): If you ask Almada a question about art, you are going to get a quick-paced, passionate, information-heavy answer. Here are some highlights from our chat.

Why Desert Art Tours? Why now?

Almada said he started the company because he recognized that there are a growing number of folks, both locals and tourists, like me—people who want to learn more about art. For example, the Smithsonian museums have been seeing record crowds. “Attendance at art venues, in the country and around the world, has grown, even as the recession hit us,” he said.

However, it can be difficult for gallery and museum attendees to get proper information if they’re there to truly learn, and not just browse. “Docents aren’t always available,” Almada said. “That can discourage a lot of people from attending.”

It can also be a challenge to see a variety of art in the ever-sprawling Coachella Valley, both for tourists without vehicles, and for locals who may not know where to go. Therefore, Almada handles all of the transportation—and even arranges for a meal on some tours.

Since nobody else in the Coachella Valley that he knew of was offering such art tours, Almada said, starting Desert Art Tours to fill that niche made sense.

What tours are offered?

Almada currently lists six different tours on his site: a tour of the Palm Springs Art Museum; a journey of art, both public and private, across the valley; a valley gallery tour; an El Paseo shopping/gallery jaunt; a private collections tour; and a Southern California day trip tour. Almada is also happy to tailor tours to attendees’ specific desires.

What are some favorite places to take tour-goers?

Almada mentioned a variety of places, all of which happen to be in Palm Desert: The J. Willott Gallery on El Paseo (“They appeal to a vast audience,” he said); the new Dawson Cole Fine Art location, also on El Paseo, which showcases the “world-class sculptures” of Richard MacDonald; the Imago Galleries on Highway 74 (“The architecture is so grand, and the art is so contemporary. They have world-class glass creations.”); Heather James Fine Art, on Portola Avenue, which Almada likes both for its “blue chip” art and its periodic exhibitions, including a fine Picasso show a few years back; and, finally, the four-acre Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert.

OK, so how much does it cost?

That depends on the tour, the length and whether a meal is involved, but it starts at $125 per person, with a group of at least four, he said.

For more information or to contact Desert Art Tours, visit desert-arttours.com.

Published in Visual Arts