Coachella 2017: Art is always more than just music at the festival


Coachella wraps up its first weekend today with anticipated sets from rapper Kendrick Lamar and movie composer Hans Zimmer before its encore starts on Friday. A popular selfie spot is a metal frame holding 2,120 convex and concave mirrors. Art-driven pop icon Lady Gaga headlined Saturday, performing on the main stage in the periphery of the art pieces.Tall, boxy animal shapes that look like piñatas wearing party hats loom over one part of the grounds, while another is populated with colorful stucco gourd-shaped plants.
While last year’s festival featured six pieces, this year “we went for scale and more expansive work,” Lehrer said.Also unlike last year, none of the artwork at Coachella 2017 appears overtly political. In 2016, “Katrina Chairs” suggested communities left stranded by the 2005 hurricane in New Orleans, and “Besame Mucho” aimed to promote cross-border love and acceptance.The festival works with the artists it commissions to develop the pieces, but the goal isn’t to make a political statement, Lehrer said.
While the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has always revolved around music, the festival’s most enduring images — and those most likely to grace fans’ selfies and profile pictures — are the large-scale art installations.This year’s four major art works, including one that’s 75 feet tall and another that takes up more than an acre of the grassy festival grounds at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, are all about architectural scale and visual impact, said Raffi Lehrer, associate art director for the festival.

“Especially in this day and age, everyone’s so inundated with news and politics” that Coachella is intended to be a respite from political conflict, he said.The art on the grounds this year is more whimsical and confectionery, but it remains a key part of the Coachella experience.“I think it’s like the perfect setting for it,” said Alyanna Tekulve, 23, who came from Salt Lake City with her husband, Drew, 25, to the festival’s first weekend.“You’re out here all day, so at least they can have awesome things to look at.”