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Experience the New Modernism Museum

modernism museum

By Kevin Perry

Paradise is timeless. It evokes the best elements of yesteryear and paves the way to a brighter tomorrow. Palm Springs embodies this sense of history and hopefulness with our iconic architecture and visionary aesthetics.

But our hometown is timeless in another way, as well. We are a world-class destination throughout the year, from our sultry summers to our crisp winters and everything in between. So, how can we consistently capture the imagination of travelers and locals alike? With a fresh roster of hotspots like the forthcoming Modernism Museum, founded by Tracy Turco.

Image of Tracy Turco with modernism museum
Credit: Desert Sun

“My dream is to do a modernism museum. And I’ve had this idea since I moved to Palm Springs, five years ago. And we were always in search of the perfect property. And then while on our morning walks, we walked down Palm Canyon every morning for our coffee and tea, and we spotted this building and I said that this could be the modernism museum, it’s the best location.”

For Tracy, this isn’t just a whim; it’s a wondrous life journey.

“We rescue buildings that are in need of restoration and whatnot. I mean, that’s what we are doing with all the vintage retro inspired hotels.”

She’s referring to her imminently inviting resorts on Indian Canyon and Stevens Road. “What I did with the Art Hotel, I created the whole artistic vibe. And the Tiki Hotel with that era, and the Cheetah Hotel with the swanky cocktail, sexy, glamorous era.”

tiki hotel room

Read more about the Tiki Hotel

But the Modernism Museum is delivering next-level time-travel vibes.

“This is the final culmination of the Tracy Turco puzzle because it’s a culmination of all things retro,” she beams. “This is everything. And this is for all families to enjoy at every level.”

Let’s explore these levels, shall we?

The Modernism Museum consists of what Tracy calls “vignettes” – like scenes from a movie where YOU are the star. Or, as its creator puts it: “You live it, you relive it.”

Tracy walks us through the space virtually, painting a midcentury masterpiece with her descriptive narration.

“So we have a ’50s beauty salon, a ’60s living room, a psychedelic room with Peter Max. There’s also a ’50s kitchen. I have my 1969 Jaguar XJ-E in there, pulled up to a diorama of the Racquet Club. And there’s two wooden racquets there.”

Peter Max (Born Peter Max Finkelstein) is a German artist known for his unique brand of rainbow-hued prints and paintings, which he has created since the early 1960s. Employing painterly strokes, his illustrations incorporate a wide spectrum of colors.

peter-max-modernism museum

The Racquet Club was a Palm Springs resort founded by actors Charles Farrell and Ralph Bellamy, which opened on December 15, 1934. It became a very popular private hang-out for the wealthy, famous, and Hollywood elite, helping put Palm Springs on the map as a world-class resort destination. 

racquet club pool

“So as soon as you walk into the museum, you could pose, pick up the racquet, and you’re under the Racquet Club Museum sign right next to where your car pulled up.”

Now that you’re firmly parked in the past, it’s time to stargaze.

“Inside the museum there’s also a heart shaped bathtub, reminiscent of Jayne Mansfield’s pink bathtub with a pink fur wall.

jayne mansfield's pink bathtub modernism museum

I have an Arthur Elrod bedroom set that was one of the premier designers in Palm Springs during the modernism period. And I have a lot of Magna Gabor pieces in that room.”

 Elrod was known as the “design king of the desert” for his prolific interior design work during Palm Spring’s post-war housing boom. He is particularly remembered today as the client behind the concrete-domed hilltop dwelling that John Lautner custom-built for him in 1968 and was in the James Bond film “Diamonds Are Forever.”

john lautner_elrod house







Magda Gabor was the sister of Eva and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Along with their mother, Jolie Gabor, they all owned homes in Palm Springs. Tracy purchased the home of Madga Gabor and it came with some of her furnishings. (Zsa Zsa, Magda, Jolie, Eva)

gabor sisters modernism museum

“When you walk out of that room, there’s a 1956 Wellcraft wood boat that says ‘Hound Dog’ on it. And then we have a video of Elvis water-skiing. And he actually wrote that Hound Dog song in my research while he was on the lake at his friend’s house taking some time away. And that’s where he wrote that song.”

Modernism museum _credit desert sun_15-foot 1956 Chris-Craft wooden boat with the name Hound Dog emblazoned on it- elvis skied with this boat
Credit: Desert Sun

Aside from the celebrity factor, the Modernism Museum also embraces the fabulosity of everyday life.

“You could even pick up a 1950s iron on an ironing board and an apron is laid out there. And then I have a 1950s refrigerator, stove, even a bakeware set. You could sit at the table as if someone’s serving you… I have a 1960s camper and I did a whole outdoor picnic style set with a little teardrop camper inside it.

There’s a beautiful Palm Springs western room that has all the rodeo memorabilia because Palm Springs used to have and host all the rodeos. And people were always in parades on horses. And then there’s the whole Smoke Tree Ranch where… I mean you saw people dressed in western wear on a regular basis in Palm Springs. And then the room after that is a welcome to Palm Springs Airport, when people pulled up. I have every different vintage suitcase and all the different airlines and there’s a big diorama of the Palm Springs Airport with a vintage car photo in it. And you could pick up a suitcase and pose in front of it. Like you just arrived. 1950 style.”

Smoke Tree Ranch was a western themed private community with ranch stables. It still exists today. Walt Disney was one of the famous home-owners.

smoke tree ranch Horseback-riding

So, how can one space embrace decades of design?

“It’s 12,000 square feet,” explains Tracy.

“It’s like a treasure hunt. You’re going through different rooms and you don’t even know what to expect. And then in the very back, there’s a huge space… There’s free Skee-Ball for everyone…

Skee-Ball is an arcade game and one of the first redemption games. It is played by rolling a ball up an inclined lane and over a “ball-hop” hump (resembling a ski jump) that jumps the ball into bullseye rings. 

But there’s no limit on Tracy’s enthusiasm for her museum’s myriad of possibilities.

“For me, it’s like my own personal treasure chest that I opened up and shared with the entire community and every visitor in Palm Springs. And the best part is, in the gift shop, they can actually take a piece with them. So I have so many vintage pieces. I even have pieces from the Gabor Estate. I have the entire Elvis record collection. You could still buy vintage and unique items in the gift shop and take it with you.”

As Tracy Turco regards the past with a sense of retro reverence, she also focuses a keen eye on the future.

And to cherish your own slice of happenin’ history, book a trip to the Modernism Museum!

It opens October 15th, 2022 at 380 N. Palm Canyon.

See you in style!

modernism museum address 380

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