Palm Springs Art Museum

Coordinates: 33°49′27″N 116°33′00″W / 33.82417°N 116.55000°W / 33.82417; -116.55000
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Palm Springs Art Museum (PSAM)
Main location in Palm Springs
Palm Springs Art Museum is located in California
Palm Springs Art Museum
Location within California
Former name
Palm Springs Desert Museum
Established1938 (1938)
LocationPSAM (main)
101 Museum Drive,
Palm Springs, CA, 92262

Architecture & Design Center
300 S. Palm Canyon
Palm Springs, CA

Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden
72-567 Highway 111,
Palm Desert, California 92260
Coordinates33°49′27″N 116°33′00″W / 33.82417°N 116.55000°W / 33.82417; -116.55000
TypeVisual and performing arts
AccreditationAmerican Alliance of Museums
Collection size≈ 24,000 objects
DirectorAdam Lerner
ArchitectE. Stewart Williams
Public transit accessSunLine Transit Agency
Palm Springs: Routes 111, 14, 24, 30, 32
Palm Desert: Routes 111, 32, 50

The Palm Springs Art Museum (formerly the Palm Springs Desert Museum) is a visual and performing arts institution with several locations in the Coachella Valley, in Riverside County, California, United States, founded in 1938. PSAM has been focused on design and contemporary art since 2004.[1] PSAM houses an art museum and an Architecture and Design Center in Palm Springs, California, along with the Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at a satellite location in Palm Desert.


Desert Museum years[edit]

The Palm Springs Desert Museum originated in 1938 in La Plaza Arcade, a gathering place for residents, on Palm Canyon Drive near in central Palm Springs. The early museum focused on the Colorado Desert and the Cahuilla and other Indigenous Americans. The museum grew and was temporarily relocated within a section of the town's library. During World War II, the museum was operated by biologist T. D. A. Cockerell. In 1947, the museum was moved into a section of a converted wartime hospital. Folk singer and marine biologist Sam Hinton served as director from 1942 to 1944. The Desert Museum focused on natural science and Indigenous American collections and programs. In 1952, the museum added a desert wildlife reserve habitat and a botanical garden.

Art museum[edit]

The Desert Museum started to transition to an art museum in 1953 when desert landscape paintings by Carl Eytel were donated by Cornelia White, Isabel Chase, and Earl Coffman.[2] A 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) structure was built for the Art Museum in downtown Palm Springs in 1958. In 1962, the museum added an auditorium and more gallery space to house contemporary art exhibitions. The executive director,[3] anthropologist Frederick Sleight[4] was credited with guiding the transformation.[5]

Architect E. Stewart Williams designed a 75,000-square-foot (7,000 m2) building in the Modernist architectural style for the third location of the museum. When the art museum was established, the desert wildlife reserve museum component became the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, an independent public institution. The Williams-designed building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

In 2003, the museum experienced financial difficulty, following debt incurred during its 1990s expansion phase. That year, retired banker Harold J. Meyerman joined the museum board; he became its chairman in 2006 and served until his death in 2015. Under Meyerman, the museum pursued financial stability through steps such as increasing its endowment from $6 million to $15.5 million, reducing staff, and raising fees for local groups using the museum's facilities.[6][7][8]

Museum scope[edit]

Palm Springs Art Museum, 2021

Emphases of the Palm Springs Art Museum developed into three areas:

Educational programs related to each of the three disciplines were planned, and the new Palm Springs Desert Museum opened to the public in January 1976. The museum expanded again in 1982 with the addition of the Denney Western American Art Wing, the museum was renamed the Palm Springs Art Museum, and classic American western art was added to the collection's fine art emphasis.

Art and natural science[edit]

The permanent collection consists of more than 24,000 objects.[9] 12,000 objects include fine art, fine art photography, photographic archives, Native American art, Mesoamerican art and artifacts from other cultures. The natural science collections are categorized in geology, biology and archaeology. 12,000 specimens include ceramics, lithics, tools, weapons, minerals, fossils, rocks, casts of fossils, herbaria, mounted invertebrates, preserved amphibians and reptiles, study skins and whole mounts of birds and mammals.

Notable artists[edit]

Noted landscape artists with works displayed or curated by the museum include:[2]

Performing arts[edit]

The intimate 437-seat Annenberg Theater presents internationally known performers and concert artists in music, dance and theater.

Growth and accreditation[edit]

Palm Springs Art Museum, 2021

The museum received accreditation[10] from the American Alliance of Museums in 1982.

The museum building had originally been designed with the possibility of adding a third level. The need for more exhibition space and educational facilities was recognized by the Board of Trustees, noting increased population and tourism in the Coachella Valley, in addition to the museum's growing collection. An expansion project was initiated with a gift of $1.5 million seed money and a donation of 132 artworks from the personal collection of designer and collector Steve Chase.

The Steve Chase Art Wing and Education Center, also designed by E. Stewart Williams, opened in November 1996. The expansion included 25,000 additional square feet of gallery space, a mezzanine, a sculpture terrace, four classrooms, two art storage vaults, and a 90-seat lecture hall. The Palm Springs Museum complex grew to encompass 124,435 square feet (11,560.4 m2), with additional exhibition space in Palm Desert as of March 2012.

Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert[edit]

On March 15, 2012, the museum opened a satellite facility in the nearby community of Palm Desert, California.[11] The inaugural exhibition was "Rodin to Now", a survey of modern sculpture from the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Contemporary artists whose works have been displayed at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert include Tracey Emin, Anthony Gormley, Lino Tagliapietra, Klaus Moje, Richard Marquis, Karen LaMonte and Jennifer Steinkamp.[12]

Architecture and Design Center[edit]

In 2011, the museum purchased the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan building, also a Palm Springs building designed by the architect E. Stewart Williams in 1961.[13] PSAM converted the building into exhibition space and opened it to the public as the Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion, in 2014. The opening exhibition showed the desert modern style work of Williams.[13] The building was renovated for PSAM by the Marmol Radziner architecture firm of Los Angeles.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vankin, Deborah (2019-04-10). "Palm Springs Art Museum names Louis Grachos its new director". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2023-02-12.
  2. ^ a b "Desert Landscape". Palm Springs Art Museum. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  3. ^ "About Us: History". Palm Springs Art Museum. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  4. ^ Pricer, Jamie Lee (June 23, 2009). "Meet the man who brought the valley the Palm Springs Art Museum". Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  5. ^ A Golden Palm Star in front of the Palm Springs museum, part of the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, was dedicated to Sleight in 2000. Palm Springs Walk of Stars: By Date Dedicated Archived 2012-12-08 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ David Colker, "Harold Meyerman, ex-banker who aided Palm Springs museum, dies at 76", Los Angeles Times, January 28, 2015.
  7. ^ Alex Altman, "Some local nonprofits succeeding despite recession offer hope, lessons for a beleaguered sector", The Public Record (Palm Desert, CA), May 26, 2009.
  8. ^ "Harold Meyerman", Artforum, January 28, 2015.
  9. ^ "10Best: Palm Springs Art Museum". USA Today. Retrieved 2023-02-11.
  10. ^ ""American Alliance of Museums Accredited Institutions as of July 2012"" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-24. Retrieved 2012-09-09.
  11. ^, "Palm Springs Art Museum Opens in Palm Desert", March 15, 2012
  12. ^ Klein, Lee (March 15, 2012). "The State of Sculpture at Palm Springs Art Museum", NY Arts.
  13. ^ a b Ghazarian, Leah (November 10, 2014). "Palm Springs Art Museum Expands to include Architecture and Design Center". Architect Magazine. Retrieved February 13, 2023.
  14. ^ Rottman, Zach (May 26, 2016). "Eye on Design: Andrea Zittel's Aggregated Stacks and the Collection of the Palm Springs Art Museum". College Art Association Reviews. doi:10.3202/ Retrieved 2023-02-17.

Further reading[edit]

  • Askey, Ruth (December 1976 – January 1977). "New museum – old environment". Art Gallery. XIX (2): 88–91. (Abstract: Includes interviews with director Frederick W. Sleight and architect E. Stewart Williams on the recently completed museum.)
  • Young, Patricia Mastick (1983). Desert Dream Fulfilled: The History of the Palm Springs Desert Museum. Palm Springs, CA: Palm Springs Desert Museum. p. 80. LCCN 83080384. OCLC 19266381. LCC QH541.5.D4 Y68 1983
  • Williams, E. Stewart (1979). Palm Springs Desert Museum. Palm Springs, CA: Palm Springs Desert Museum. p. 120. OCLC 7442716.
  • Palm Springs Desert Museum Women's Committee (1988). Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Palm Springs Desert Museum, 1938-1988. Palm Springs, CA: The Committee. p. 224. OCLC 19223136.

External links[edit]