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Desert X

Desert X postpones opening amid Covid-19 surge in California

The outdoor festival, due to take over Coachella Valley in February, will now wait until lockdown restrictions are lifted

Katie Ryan's Ghost Palm (2019) in the second edition of the Desert X biennial Lance Gerber

As California hits a bleak coronavirus milestone this month, with nearly 10% of the population infected, organisers of Desert X in the Coachella Valley have announced that the forthcoming edition of the outdoor sculpture exhibition will be postponed until lockdown restrictions have been lifted in the state.

The third edition of the exhibition, which has become known as an arbiter of the “festival art” movement in the California and Nevada desert, was scheduled to open on 6 February (until 11 April) and offer both digital and in-person experiences throughout the valley.

However, last month, the California governor Gavin Newsom reinstated stringent stay-at-home orders as intensive care units began to reach capacity. And as hospitalisations continue to surge, the order, which was envisioned to be in effect until mid-January, is likely to be extended.

“In light of the urgent health crisis and surge in cases of Covid-19, the only responsible way forward to protect our community, health care system, artists, visitors and all those who volunteer and contribute to the exhibition is to wait until we are out of the lockdown period,” says Susan Davis, the founder of the biennial.

The last edition of the exhibition, curated by the artistic director Neville Wakefield, featured large-scale works by Iván Argote, Pia Camil and Katie Ryan. The forthcoming line-up has not been announced although the projects are completed, according to Davis. A new opening date will be announced “as soon as we believe we can safely to so”, she says.

California currently ranks third nationally in coronavirus deaths and infections, behind Texas and New York, with more than 30,000 deaths recorded since the onset of the pandemic in March last year. Over the weekend, officials reported a two-day record of more than 1,000 fatalities.