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Sir Winston Churchill is an iconic giant. He was a renowned statesman, a two-time British prime minister, a Nobel Prize-winning author—and perhaps even a savior of Western civilization.

However, most people don’t know he was also a painter—and few have had the chance to see his art. This makes The Paintings of Sir Winston Churchill, on display at Heather James Fine Art in Palm Desert through May 30, a rare treat.

Churchill (Nov. 30, 1874-Jan. 24, 1965) was born into one of the great aristocratic families of Great Britain, the Spencers; another Spencer was Princess Diana. His father was a politician, and his mother was an American-born British socialite. Winston joined the British Army and was elected to Parliament in 1900.

Churchill began painting in 1915, after stepping down as the political head of the British Navy. He was a self-taught artist, but because of his stature, he was able to befriend many of the top British painters. He was always modest about his work—but successfully entered several competitions under assumed names.

He painted in the Impressionist style and preferred to paint outdoors. It’s estimated that he produced about 500 paintings over a 40-year period. He never sold his work and only gave paintings as gifts to his friends and relatives. Most of his work remains in the museum at Chartwell. There are a few pieces in other museums, with the remaining paintings in private collections, including those of Queen Elizabeth II, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

The value of Churchill’s art has risen dramatically over the years. A painting originally given to Clare Booth Luce, “Chartwell Landscape With Sheep,” sold for 1 million pounds in 2007.

“Although painting was just a hobby, Churchill learned new skills which he used in his political and diplomatic life,” said Duncan Sandys, a great-grandson of Winston Churchill, according to a Heather James news release. “It gave him a sanctuary during adversity and, I believe, made him more effective in 1940 as Hitler prepared to invade Britain.”

The 11 paintings on display at Heather James Fine Art are from the 1920s to 1940s, from the collection of the late Julian Sandys, Churchill’s eldest grandchild and Duncan’s father.

I asked Chip Tom, a curator for Heather James Fine Art, how the exhibit came to the valley.

“The exhibit came about from a local desert person introducing us to the Churchill family,” Tom said. “We have been working with the family for about 6 months in trying to organize bringing the paintings to the desert.”

Tom said the response to the exhibit has been fantastic. “Part of the mission of Heather James Fine Art is to bring world-class, museum-quality work to the desert communities and make it available to the public,” he said. “This is for everyone in the valley. We’re not a museum, but you can come and enjoy great art, and there is no entry fee.”

I made several visits to the gallery to spend some time with these paintings. The hand of the artist is palpable; they are very honest works. There are areas that speak of technical brilliance and artistic insight, but Churchill doesn’t try to hide the struggle and frustration when he didn’t get it quite right. As an amateur painter myself, I found this encouraging.

There are nine landscapes, a seascape and a still life in the collection. “On the Var,” from 1935, is the largest and most polished. It reads as a tribute to Cezanne—but there is an area in the foreground, depicting a small stream, that was obviously problematic for Churchill. In “Lake Near Breccles in Autumn,” also painted in the 1930s, he had no such problem: The surface and reflections of the water are rendered in confident and fluid brushstrokes reminiscent of Monet’s waterlilies.

We will never know exactly how painting influenced Churchill’s role as a statesman, leader and writer. However, we do know painting was important enough to him that once he picked up a brush, he never traveled without his paint box, canvases and easel.

The exhibit The Paintings of Sir William Churchill is on display through Wednesday, May 30, at Heather James Fine Art, 45188 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert. For more information, call 760-346-8926, or visit www.heatherjames.com.

Published in Visual Arts

Whenever a family of artists works collectively, it’s natural to both be intrigued by individual works, and curious about the sum of their creative endeavors. When the family’s works are gathered together in one place, the art can be put into perspective—even if that perspective is shaped by one’s personal taste in art.

If you find yourself at the end of an El Paseo shopping spree or dining adventure, it would be well worth your while to wander into Heather James Fine Art to visit the intriguing exhibit Art of the Wyeth Family, which will be on display through June.

The exhibit features artwork by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) and his many talented family members and descendants, spanning three generations. Included are works by N.C. Wyeth’s children Henriette, Carolyn, Ann and Andrew (a National Medal of Arts winner who, in 2011-2012, was the subject of a retrospective at the Palm Springs Art Museum). Also included are works by son-in-law John McCoy; grandchildren Jamie Wyeth and Maude Robin McCoy; and grandniece Anna B. McCoy—all celebrated American painters on their own. It may be worth taking your family and pointing out what a family can do when they work together—but again, that is a matter of taste.

The family story includes the insistence by patriarch N.C. Wyeth that his children learn the traditional aspects of creating, while emphasizing the importance of observing the natural world and expressing their place in it. The Wyeth family’s roots are on the East Coast, mostly in Maine and Pennsylvania, and naturalistic representations of the landscape, wildlife and area inhabitants are prevalent and were passed down through the generations. There is a century of time between the earliest painting in this exhibition and the artists who are still at work today.

Gallery consultant Hayden Hunt said N.C. Wyeth’s work is similar in style to that of Norman Rockwell.

“This exhibit is unique to the Coachella Valley in that it is different from the Western influences normally represented,” he said. “The art included is a unique look at the character who guided his family into the world of painting.”

N.C. Wyeth is known mostly for his illustrations for novels (Treasure Island, The Last of the Mohicans, Robinson Crusoe) and magazine covers (The Saturday Evening Post), but he also created posters, calendars and advertisements for clients such as Lucky Strike, Cream of Wheat and Coca-Cola. He painted murals for the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the First National Bank of Boston and other buildings, both public and private.

Later in life, he insisted that he was “trapped” by the commercial work, and never attained the personal satisfaction or public recognition that he sought for his art. Therefore, it was up to his family to carry on and create the legacy that is now on display. He fostered “friendly competition” between his children, and brought in his daughter’s suitor, John McCoy, to raise the stakes.

Notable works in Art of the Wyeth Family include “Once the Girl Started Through the Yard as Though She Would Rush After Them and Stopped at the Gate” by N.C. Wyeth; it’s a work of subtle simplicity with a complex title. The portrait “Anna B.” by Henriette Wyeth and the stark “Red Tail Hawk” by Jamie Wyeth also draw one’s attention.

Art of the Wyeth Family is on display through June at Heather James Fine Art, 45188 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 760-346-8926, or visit www.heatherjames.com.

Published in Visual Arts

Heather James Fine Art is surprising and delighting gallery-goers with Norman Rockwell’s humorous depictions of American life, along with portraits and studies by the renowned artist that uncover another level of his perception and skill.

“In putting together this Norman Rockwell show, we wanted to highlight examples of his artwork that illustrated the artist's working process,” said the gallery’s Hayden Hunt. “This can be seen through paintings like ‘Boy on a Weathervane,’ which is a study for a magazine cover; through ‘Study for “Boy With Melting Ice Cream Cones”’ that was a preliminary figure study for a painting; and even through the early painting ‘Gramercy Park,’ which was painted before Rockwell developed his strong narrative style of painting.”

The show includes several beautiful examples of storytelling, while others works depict a character in a unique way. For instance, “Weighing In (The Jockey)” reveals exaggerated figures—a seeming giant weighs a tiny jockey.

“We included images like ‘Weighing In’ because it reveals the artist’s skills at telling stories through a single image,” Hunt said. “This particular piece has a connection to the larger theme of the show, illustrating the artist's working process, because the painting of ‘Head Studies of a Girl (Peggy Best Sketch Class)’ actually has an under-drawing of ‘Weighing In’ visible underneath the painting. It shows how Rockwell reused his canvases and was continually adapting his ideas, or even abandoning them altogether.”

The small show includes some pieces on loan to Heather James.

“We chose to include artwork on loan that highlights interesting aspects of Rockwell's artistic output, which you don't see as often in paintings displayed in museums,” Hunt said. “‘Portrait of George A. Musselman’ is not a characteristic Rockwell painting, since it was not used as a magazine cover or for illustration purposes. Instead, it was actually commissioned by one of Rockwell's collectors; he owned about five major paintings by the artist.”

The show includes works in several different mediums—from full-color offset prints to paintings in oil—at various price points.

“Rockwell is best-known for his oil paintings, but he also did sketches in pencil,” Hunt said. “While he was alive, the artist began printing and selling lithographs of his artwork to sell out of his home in Stockbridge, Mass. He was well-known and loved by people around the country for his magazine covers, and he wanted to create signed works in media that were accessible to almost anyone who wanted one.”

One of the finest in the show is “Study for ‘Boy With Melting Ice Cream Cones.’” Not only does the young boy have stunning looks; Rockwell unveils the boy’s depth of personality and strength of character through beautiful paint strokes and color. It is a gem of a painting.

“I really love ‘Study for “Boy With Melting Ice Cream Cones,’” Hunt said. “He painted it in 1940. The model had done other jobs with various illustrators, but Rockwell used a different model to finish (the resulting work), because this model is too handsome. He chose a characteristic Rockwell look, with upturned nose, not this model, who has a Rat Pack look.”

This uncommon study of a very charismatic boy makes one wonder if perhaps there is even more to the story of the model change for the Saturday Evening Post cover.

A favorite artist of Americans everywhere, Rockwell had the gift of being able to tell through art.

“The paintings in the show and his other works show an entire narrative story from a single Rockwell image,” Hunt said. “He carefully planned everything out and used political overtures a lot. His Saturday Evening Post covers were complex.”

Norman Rockwell is on display through Monday, Jan. 30, at Heather James Fine Art, 45188 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 760-346-8926, or visit www.heatherjames.com

Published in Visual Arts

“Fundamentally antagonistic” is an appropriate phrase to use when describing the works of John Sloan and Alexander Calder, two celebrated artists who set benchmarks during the first 75 years of the last century.

Over the first half of the century, Sloan incorporated New York City’s energy with social commentary through his oils, drawings and prints. As a Sloan protégé, Calder learned to create highly detailed, technically exacting and subtly nuanced oils, prints and works on paper. Sloan’s influence was reflected in Calder’s early works. However, Calder did not imitate his teacher.

Shortly after graduating from art school, Calder—who had previously earned a mechanical-engineering degree—reinvented himself, in the process redefining sculpture. Sometime in the early 1930s, a Calder piece at a gallery exhibition announced his unique and highly personal aesthetic: One avant garde artist called it “mobile.”

About five years later, the artist re-branded himself yet again, and further broadened the definition of sculpture. Calder coined the word “stabile” when asked to define it.

Calder’s mobiles and stabiles demonstrated his unique ability to create unexpected artistic synergies. More specifically, he produced art that reflected his ability to leverage his creative right brain (art degree) concurrent with his analytic left brain (engineering degree).

While Calder is best known for the mobile and stabile, Calder’s creative output included both two-dimensional (paintings, fine art prints, works on paper, drawings) and three-dimensional works until his death in 1976. Often, there appears to be a “conversation” between works on paper and sculptures. In other words, a work on paper may be the basis for a sculpture, or vice versa.

The fantastic Calder show on display through May 30 at Heather James Fine Art in Palm Desert includes a number of stabiles and mobiles. Most are smaller and intimate, making Calder’s language and aesthetic more accessible.

However, the stars of this exhibit are Calder’s prints, drawings and works on paper. The Heather James team wonderfully organized a show that introduces Calder as a visual artist who moves seamlessly between two- and three-dimensional art.

The impact is most pronounced when facing the expansive wall at the back of the gallery. The entire space, from floor to ceiling, is populated with an array of strong Calder prints, drawings and gouaches. A first look at the wall can be overpowering. However, if one mentally breaks the wall into smaller groups of Calder’s works, understanding replaces overload. Almost all of Calder’s works on paper and prints do three things: They engage the viewer, require interpretation and are infused with humor and whimsy.

In “Le Petit Rouge” (upper right), a later gouache and ink on paper, the artist paints two four-legged animals: one red, and one blue. While painted clearly, what they are, exactly, is defined by the viewer. A jackal? A dog? Both have claws, not paws, as well as Doberman pinscher-like ears that might also be seen as horns. Lastly, the blue animal sports a grin reminiscent of that of the Cheshire Cat. However, is this grin playful or impish … or perhaps sinister?

Throughout his life, Calder remained fascinated with and inspired by the circus. A large number of his sculptures and works on paper contain circus-related themes, dating back to his years at the Art Students League. In the print “Circus,” the artist effectively synthesizes and encapsulates the energy, complexity and delight Calder found when visiting the big top, all without sacrificing his trademark palette of primary colors, plus black and white.

As expected, the ringmaster, much like the conductor of an orchestra or band, stands front, albeit just left center. Like a conductor, he is dressed in top hat and tails. However, the ringmaster here traded in his baton for a bullwhip. Swirling around the ringmaster is a horse, presented in red and outlined in blue, creating a sense of ongoing motion and flow without seeming forced. A clown in the bottom left foreground appears to be engaging the audience. A trapeze artist, clearly preparing to jump to a new swing, adds to the dynamic.

To reinforce the sense of motion, Calder—by adding two large red circles and a series of 12 broadly printed blue lines—creates the illusion of spotlights moving around the performance area. As in “Le Petit Rouge,” Calder’s horse smiles. There is also an irony: All of the human circus performers show no apparent emotion.

In “The Handstand,” a bronze created in 1944 (below), Calder conveys the sense of whimsy, imagination and fun with which he is associated. In keeping with Calder’s style, the artist leaves the viewer to determine the gender and age of the figure. However, this and another small sculpture, “Cheval II,” created during the same years, appear totally un-Calderesque. In sharp contrast to the simplicity and elegance associated with his mobiles and stabiles, these pieces seem like unfinished, rough first drafts that require significantly more work. They appear heavily influenced by Giacometti, with a roughness unexpected in a Calder work.

The Alexander Calder exhibition is on display through Monday, May 30, at Heather James Fine Art, located at 45188 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 760-346-8926, or visit www.heatherjames.com.

Published in Visual Arts

If you have not yet paid a visit to Heather James Fine Art in Palm Desert, go now—while you still have the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic Warhol exhibition that’s on display at the gallery into April.

Andy Warhol’s works may very well be the most-recognizable art in the world. His parents were immigrants from Slovakia, and he was born in Pittsburgh; of course, he would go on to become one of the most controversial pop artists of all-time before his death in 1987. He turned ordinary objects into iconic symbols—celebrating the mundane as art.

His art is a perfect fit for Heather James Fine Art, which shows art in various genres from around the globe, including a lot of blue-chip works. The exhibit Andy Warhol: Paintings and Prints has been on display at the gallery since November.

“It was an honor and a pleasure to bring dozens of Warhol pieces to the Coachella Valley,” said curator Chip Tom. “He is one of few contemporary artists recognized worldwide. China, Russia, Africa—everyone knows Warhol.”

Warhol celebrated celebrities—and in doing so, he became one himself, thanks in part to his clever marketing tactics. I used to live in New York City, and I remember when Warhol would arrange for groups of photographers to follow his every move in public.

Heather James is not just showing the works of Warhol; the gallery is also presenting an exhibition of abstract art by five artists, each with an expressive style. One of those artists is Luc Bernard, a Canadian artist now residing in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. He began as an encaustic painter who created lush landscapes, but his style eventually evolved into abstraction.

Another artist, Betty Gold, a familiar name to the desert, is best known as a sculptor whose works in steel are collected all over the U.S. and Europe. Two of her huge works reside in front of the gallery’s garden space. David Hare (1917-1992) was also primarily known for his sculpture, but he also worked in photography and painting. He was a founding member of the Subjects of the Artist School in New York in 1948, along with Mark Rothko, William Baziotes and Robert Motherwell. Nice company! Speaking of nice company, Hare’s friends included Jean-Paul Sartre, Balthus, Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso.

The exhibit also includes the works of abstract expressionist painter Arne Hiersoux (1938-1983), and Norman Zammit (1937-2007), a pioneer of Light and Space, one of the most important art movements born in Los Angeles in the 1960s.

Another American artist, Alexander Calder (1898-1976), gets a gallery wall at Heather James dedicated to several of his works. He was famous for both his abstract art and his mobile sculptures. His mastery of bright colors and striking designs offers a real treat to the senses.

Finally, Salvador Dali—the Spanish artist who became synonymous with surrealism, and who was the subject of a significant exhibit at the gallery last year—retains a presence at the gallery, which continues to show some of his works.

Dali was a mere 12 years old when he enjoyed his first exhibition of charcoal drawings. He entered art school in 1922, and in the late ’20s, he met and then worked with Picasso, Miro and Magritte. He was introduced to America in 1934 by art-dealer Julien Levy and was an instant sensation. Dali was known as much for his eccentric behavior and attention-grabbing public actions as he was for his art—just like Andy Warhol. Therefore, it’s fitting to see their works together under the same roof.

Heather James Fine Art is located at 45188 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. For more information, call 760-346-8926, or visit www.heatherjames.com. Below: “Les Pyramides Grandes,” by Alexander Calder, color lithograph.

Published in Visual Arts

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

Welcome to my new column, which will feature reviews of and news about of the Coachella Valley art scene.

My goal is to cover the various galleries and the exhibitions, from the newly appointed galleries on North Palm Canyon Drive, to the Coachella Valley Art Center in Indio.

I have been a resident of the desert for 33 years and have seen so many galleries come and go. The good news is that there are great new galleries sprouting up, to the delight of the art community, which is a rich blend of local artists and transplants from other parts of the country.

One such new gallery is the Woodman/Shimko Gallery, at 1105 N. Palm Canyon Drive—next to Archangel Art Collective, and across from the noble, iconic Michael H. Lord Gallery.

I recently met with the gallerist, Woody Shimko, who established a presence in Palm Springs after operating a gallery in Provincetown, Mass., for several years, where during the peak season, more than 100 people an hour came through the doors. The gallery has an eclectic representation of various artists included in a contemporary setting, with photography, large abstract portraits and modern works chosen by Shimko, who has had much experience in gallery management and creative direction on a global scale.

The gallery scene in Palm Springs evokes a feeling of Bohemian Soho and the L.A. Underground, which is chic, hip and radiates a certain street-scene modernity that blends well in the company of the modernism and mid-century dwellings that Palm Springs has catapulted in international consciousness.

Elsewhere in the desert, art-lovers can purchase art ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to millions of dollars—in the galleries on El Paseo in Palm Desert, such as the sterling Heather James Fine Art.

The exhibitions at Heather James are legendary, from contemporary to European impressionists to the masters (such as Rembrandt) with other amazing works by emerging artists, all the way up to blue-chip art at its finest.

When I lecture on early California art, people are often amazed to learn that this entire area developed into an artist colony toward the end of the California gold rush in 1849. Artists from all over the globe came to witness the legends of gold flowing in the streams. An exotic mystique was born, giving a focus to the New West, where California's reign as the Golden State began.

The artists’ colonies that had developed in the early 1800s moved into the Arroyo Seco near Pasadena, where the great powers of Christianity had helped pave the way to the missions, from Riverside to Indio. These early artists made pilgrimages to experience the majestic mountains with hues of lavender and splendid sunsets beckoning to be painted on canvas, thus forming the plein-air movement of American impressionists.

The Coachella Valley was and is a place of inspirational natural beauty for artists to contemplate and create. I am delighted to see that the art scene continues to flourish—and I look forward to telling you all about it.

Richard Almada is the CEO and president of Artistic Relations, and heads up Desert Art Tours. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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