Coachella 2016 might be all about the headliners: reunions from LCD Soundsystem and Guns n' Roses, and highly anticipated appearances by Calvin Harris, Zedd, ZHU, Ice Cube , Disclosure and Sia. But this year's art is a close second.
Mobile installments of recent years like the gigantic astronaut or the caterpillar/butterfly are gone, replaced by an entirely new crop of intriguing pieces. As a matter of fact, other than Robert Bose's ever-present balloon chain, all of 2016's art is new to Coachella.
What started as an aesthetically pleasing way to break up the long stretches of real estate between stages on Coachella's massive campus has become an essential component to the festival experience.
And with each passing year, the ante seems to get raised. From the original Tesla Coil to last year's incredibly ambitious, hippo-filled "Corporate Headquarters," expectations (and delivery) grow.
It was no different this year, and Coachella delivered.
The moment fans enter the grounds, they're greeted by "Besame Mucho" from R & R Studios in Argentina. A gigantic word wall made entirely of flowers, it's an ever-present reminder of the festival's intent to extend good vibes to all of its patrons.
Two other large-scale installments can be found close by: "Tower of Twelve Stories" by Taiwanese/Canadian artist Jimenez Lai, and Latvian artists Katrina Neiburga and Andres Riga's "Armpit."
The former is an all-white structure comprised of a dozen randomly shaped "boxes" piled on one another. It ends up looking like the result of an acid-induced Jenga game, or how children's toys end up piled in a closet when you ask them to clean their room. During the daytime, it stands modestly unassuming, mostly providing shelter from the heat of the sun. But at night, each component lights up, sometimes with different colors and sometimes all together as one, and becomes a beautiful beacon that can be seen from all corners of the polo fields.
"Armpit" isn't anywhere as visually pleasing, but it is completely interactive. Fans line up all day and night to walk around the structure and get a different perspective of the Coachella campus. Based on the secret lives men have when retreating into their garages, it's primarily constructed with materials discarded from Latvian office buildings and houses.
The Date Farmers (aka Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez) offer up their "Sneaking Into The Show" piece as a juxtaposition of life inside, and just outside, of the festival. Its 30-foot-tall pair of would-be concert goers watch over the festivities from the east side of the grounds.
Residing in close proximity to the Date Farmers' piece is "Katrina Chairs" by Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea. Coachella's most political installment, the gigantic, bright yellow chairs look quite benign from a distance. But get closer and it's revealed that the chairs are actually cramped living spaces, modeling the horrific conditions forced upon residents affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. While many concert-goers used the installment as a place to meet friends or a brief respite from the sun, the piece's heavy message gets through to many.
There are plenty of smaller-scale pieces as well. The circular, mirrored rest area, "Portals," by Palm Desert artist Phillip K. Smith III, provided a great place to recharge and snap a few photos, and the 10-foot-tall assortment of "lamps" in the food area provided a warm Alice in Wonderland-style glow.
While the art of Coachella will never get the hype or recognition of the festival's performers and surprise guests, it just wouldn't be the same experience without it.