In 2001, Dolphin Promotions, in collaboration with Jacques Caussin (who owned a 20th Century furniture and decorative arts gallery in downtown Pontiac for many years before moving West) and a local architectural preservation group, organized the first modernism show to be held in Palm Springs, CA. The timing could not have been more perfect – both for the show and the city. At the time, Palm Springs was just beginning to come back to life after a few decades of general neglect and decay, having been mostly upstaged by newer and more glamorous nearby resorts like Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. The resurgence in the popularity and appreciation of modern design was the defining factor.
Eight years later, the show has blossomed into an entire Modernism Week with a full schedule of architectural lectures, book-signings, bus tours, films, receptions, and general mid-century frenzy surrounding the three-day show itself. It has earned the enthusiastic (and financial) support of the City of Palm Springs, which has signed on as an official sponsor of the event, as well as the dozens of participating hotels, restaurants, clubs, and galleries who claim it’s their busiest week of the year!
Exhibitors come from across the U.S., but most are from the West Coast and specialize, of course, in mid-century furniture, decorative and fine arts. Some of the displays are absolutely incredible – this year an LA-based gallery, Downtown, wallpapered their entire booth with enlarged posters of Andy Warhol’s Double Elvis.
Along the way, the city of Palm Springs has seen a huge revival of all things mid-century. Homes designed and built in the late ’50s and early ’60s by and in the manner of architects like John Lautner, Donald Wexler, E. Stewart Williams, and William Krisel have seen their values rise by as much as 300-400% since that first modernism show was held eight years ago. (Richard Neutra’s Kaufman house is now on the market for $15 million!) Huge numbers of young, wealthy trendsetters have bought up Rat Pack-era houses during the ’00s to use for weekend visits and entertaining their friends. And where better to find the perfect furnishings for your mid-century modern bungalow, the modernism show!
In the past five years, an entire stretch of the city’s main drag, North Palm Canyon Drive, has become devoted to antique shops and art galleries emphasizing mid-century modern design. Local fashion designer Trina Turk has even built her brightly patterned retro-Lily Pulitzer designs into a national brand with shops now in LA and New York’s hot meatpacking district. M Modern Gallery represents the artist Shag who created a limited edition seriograph especially for the 2nd and 3rd editions, of the modernism show. And the newest hotspot restaurant in town, which opened this winter to rave reviews and huge crowds, is copied from the design of a ’50s Miami Beach supper club.
For sure, modernism defines all that is cool and happening in Palm Springs, and the show and the city bank on that for many years to come. For more information, visit www.palmspringsmodernism.com or check out psmodcom.com.
Since its success in Palm Springs, Dolphin Promotions has established modernism shows in Chicago (April 25-27) and Miami (January 23-25, 2009), and will launch new events in San Francisco (September 10-14) and Las Vegas (October 3-5) in fall 2008.