Shows To Wow Around California Now

From modernist marvels in Palm Springs to haute couture in the Bay Area



Joan Brown, Self-Portrait with Swimming Coach Charlie Sava, at Larsen Pool, San Francisco, 1974. PHOTO: courtesy of the Denver Art Museum.


Swim Meet
Artists in California are drawn to water — from David Hockney’s hypnotic swimming pools to James Turrell’s Skyspaces reflected in basins — and San Francisco–born painter Joan Brown’s depictions of the bay’s choppy waves and the turbulent or meditative flow of its open-water swimmers are another key addition to the region’s aquatic canon. On view at Orange County Museum of Art’s retrospective, Joan Brown comprises more than 40 works charting the breadth and depth of her evolving career in painting and sculpture. The exhibition, organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, charts her early days as a student at California School of Fine Arts (later known as San Francisco Art Institute) creating abstract expressionist canvases alongside her representational cityscapes, portraits, self-portraits, and later depictions of travels and Eastern spiritual explorations. Here, ordinary moments like a morning swim are worthy of large canvases. Through June 2. 3333 Avenue of the Arts, Costa Mesa, 714-780-2130; ocma.art. E.V.

LEFT: Christian Dior, evening gown, Fall/Winter 1949. PHOTO: Randy Dodson, courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. RIGHT: Alexander McQueen, evening dress, Fall/Winter 2010. PHOTO: Randy Dodson, courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.


Bay Style 
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are opening the door to one of the most important collections of 20th- and 21st-century women’s costumes with Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style at the de Young Museum. Through the work of more than 50 fashion designers, from unique pre-1920s Callot Soeurs ensembles and early haute couture pieces by Chanel, Lanvin, Patou, and Grés to looks by Saint Laurent, Galanos, Ferré, Galliano, McQueen, Rodarte, and Christopher John Rogers, the exhibition is the first in more than 35 years to share the depth and breadth of the institution’s costume holdings. Highlights include a Sybil Connolly evening ensemble that Denise Hale wore to meet Queen Elizabeth in 1983. Through August 11. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, S.F., 415-750-3600; famsf.org. D.N.

Aluminaire House™ on-site at Palm Springs Art Museum, 2023. Rendering by Claudia Cengher.


Heavy Metal
The first all-metal residence, built stateside by Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher as a case study in modern design and affordable housing using industrial materials, has a new permanent address. The Aluminaire House — originally built collaboratively from factory-made prefabricated sheet metal, plate glass, steel beams, and linoleum — will become a permanent fixture at the Palm Springs Art Museum this spring. First shown in 1931 in New York, in dialogue with modern architecture pioneered in Europe by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, the work logged years in upstate New York and Long Island before arriving in the Coachella Valley. Accompanying the house is a comprehensive exhibition on the influential Swiss-American visionary who helped dream it up, Albert Frey: Inventive Modernist. Through June 3; Feb. 24 symposium. 101 Museum Dr., and 300 S. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760-322-4800; psmuseum.org. E.V.

Home tour of “That Pink Door House.” PHOTO: courtesy of Natural Retreats.


It’s Time to Peek Inside Some Midcentury Architectural Marvels
This month, the annual Palm Springs Modernism Show beckons design-minded travelers with a treasure trove of 21st-century pieces from exhibitors from across the country, along with home tours of the most iconic addresses in the Coachella Valley. Think of the MTV show Cribs, but for desert-bound midcentury modern devotees. The artist Shag opens the doors to his reimagined midcentury modern abode that’s akin to walking into a life-size Shag painting. There’s a tour of the 1967 James McNaughton Hollywood Regency-style home led by homeowners fashion designer Candice Held and artist Tristan Gittens, plus a look inside the House of Tomorrow (where Elvis and Priscilla Presley honeymooned in 1967) and residences from legends such as John Lautner and Albert Frey. Inspired to add a dash of yesteryear to your own home? The show will boast Sputnik lamps and Paul McCobb chairs galore to bring back home after all the garden tours, lectures, and parties. February 15–25. modernismweek.com. K.M.

LEFT: Adam Neeley, Calla Violette, 2020. RIGHT: Adam Neeley, Nautilus, 2022.


Laguna Art Museum’s Retrospective for Master Goldsmith Adam Neeley 
Laguna Art Museum is staging its first decorative art exhibition, Modern Alchemy, a show devoted to Adam Neeley’s innovative jewelry designs evoking art and nature through precious metal and faceted gems. Nearly 100 works are on view by the trained master goldsmith, who creates his own formulations and is a certified gemologist who cuts, polishes, and sets his stones. Studying in Italy, Neeley developed his distinctive style and after years of experimentation he pioneered a patented SpectraGold process transitioning one color of gold into another, allowing him to create subtle ombré gradients from yellow to white. His innovative earrings, necklaces, and rings amplify the hue of each stone or pearl, giving the designs an otherworldly glow. From the Laguna studio where he has worked for the past 25 years, Neeley has collaborated with various American and international designers — Joel Arthur Rosenthal, the reclusive Parisian high jeweler JAR, is a mentor — and his designs are part of the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection. Now his first solo show spotlights his vast catalog. Through July 29. 307 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, 949-494-8971; lagunaartmuseum.org. E.V.


Feature image:  Palm Desert Signature Tour, pool. ©2023 DAVID A LEE PHOTOGRAPHY.


Portions of this story originally appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of C Magazine.

Discover more DESIGN news.

Receive Updates

No spam guarantee.

Stay Up To Date

Subscribe to our weekly emails for the hottest openings, latest parties and in-depth interviews with the people putting California Style on the map.