L'Officiel Art

Inside North America’s Far-Out Art Fair, Bombay Beach Biennale

It’s not an art moment—it’s an art movement.
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Photography by Courtney Swift

Little can be said about the art fair that is bringing life and permanent installations to a California desert town; it has to be experienced. L’Officiel USA got an exclusive look into this year’s enigmatic event.


Tickets are limited to 500 select people who volunteer time, resources, or skill to the development and setup of the weekend. The large-scale art installations amid an irregularly occurring body of water are almost a quantum mechanical mystery. All that can be said for sure is that in the presence of greatness, attendees of the biennale become entangled by the sheer awareness of it all, a fact so abruptly unifying that it temporarily wipes out all distinctions between people.

The self-financed weekend’s programming included a ballet performance, opera, a drive-in movie theater, and art openings by Moral Turgeman, Daniel Dugan, Randy Polumbo, Olivia Steele, Marco Walker, and dozens of other artists. Works on canvas hang in Bombay Beach’s own Hermitage Museum. Fans of Stranger Things might equate some of the experiences to “the upside down” of creative expression. Multiple beach clubs and bars serving Gem & Bolt mezcal cocktails are set-up along the shores of the decaying Salton Sea: a meeting of luxury and macabre. Even the name “biennale” denotes a bi-annual fair; however, in Bombay Beach, the biennale takes place every year on an unidentified date.

“I love everyone here. This is amazing for the town,” said a nearby resident woman named Shorty. Artists and locals regularly come together for presentations and Bloody Marys at a local bar wallpapered in one-dollar bills and once reviewed by Anthony Bourdain, The Ski Inn. It becomes unclear at which precise moment event-goers tip slightly out of alignment with the relative normality theretofore and immerse in the new customs. Beyond a 3-day celebration, Bombay Beach Biennale reflects the creative work and programming of metropolitans bringing a renaissance to a once-dilapidated community. It is a mirror of unremitting ingenuity and cultural impact, all at once.

A sunrise opera Sunday morning marked the end of the weekend, but for first-time attendees, the beginning of so much else.

Installations and artwork from Bombay Beach Biennale 2019 is open to the public on view year-round in Bombay Beach, California


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