A unique tribute to Tyre Nichols rises in Coachella Valley

An art installation in Indio, Calif. by Desert X celebrates Tyre Nichols' life, legacy, and creative talent through photography.

Corrected: Saturday, March 11, 2023, at 9:40 a.m., ET: A previous version of this article erroneously indicated that Desert X is produced by the Coachella music festival. Desert X is produced by The Desert Biennial, a California-based not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization “conceived to produce recurring international contemporary art exhibitions that activate desert locations through site-specific installations by acclaimed international artists,” according to its website. The article has been amended to reflect this correction.

It’s officially festival season, and as Indio, Calif., prepares to host its 24th annual Coachella festival, the desert valley surrounding it has once again been transformed into an unforgettable landscape by the arts organization Desert X. Featuring the works of 12 international artists this year, the site-specific biennial art exhibition takes place at locations throughout the Coachella Valley. Among this year’s stunning installations is a series of billboards featuring the photography of Tyre Nichols. Before his untimely death at the hands of Memphis police officers, Nichols was a loving father and creative, passionate about photography. 

Tyre Nichols photography, Coachella 2023 Black art 
Desert X 2023 installation view of Tyre Nichols Originals. GoFundMe Tyre Nichols Memorial Fund, photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Desert X.

“It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people,” Nichols wrote of his photography. “My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens. People have a story to tell; why not capture it instead of doing the ‘norm’ and writing it down or speaking it.”

The installation brings Nichols’ art back to California, where he lived before moving to Tennessee. After moving from the West Coast to the East Coast in 2020, Nichols used photography as an outlet and motivator to explore his new city. Unfortunately, on his way home from capturing images of the Memphis sky on January 7, 2023, the aspiring photographer was pulled over and brutally attacked by city police officers. His passing three days later struck Black communities across the nation. Now, Nichols’ creative view of the world will be shared on billboards spanning a Palm Springs highway, supported by the City of Palm Springs Public Arts Commission. 

For organizers of the Desert X installations, the billboards honor not only Nichol’s legacy but also the legacy of all those who have fallen victim to institutional racism.

“Here, the silent beauty of these levitated images stands in stark contrast with the terror experienced by Nichols and so many others on the shoulder below,” reads the Desert X website, which encourages support of the Tyre Nichols Memorial Fund. “But as with the vision, the message is also one of hope: hope that with restrictions on pretextual stops, California can lead the way in police reform; hope that together we can create a just society in which the fragile and beautiful talents of the likes of Tyre Nichols can flourish and grow.” 

The billboards will be visible from now until May 7, 2023. 

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