Bombay Beach California: 7 Beautiful Art Installations in a Post-Apocalyptic Nightmare!

10 mins read
By: Mika Laugin on Shutterstock

Bombay Beach California has a rich history, from a ghost town to an unconventional art museum. Artists have turned one of the biggest ecological disasters into a piece of influential music, movies, and art hub.

Is this apocalyptic wasteland the last hope for a paradigm shift in interpreting art everywhere?

Bombay Beach California

1. Geography of Bombay Beach California

Bombay beach California - Geography
By: Bob Dass on Flickr Copyright 2022

This sensational resort town covers the southern part of the San Andreas fault, an intersection of a part of the Sonoran Desert and the eastern shore of the toxic desert lake known as the Salton Sea.

Bombay Beach California has had to battle with the increasing salinity and dangerous water levels of the Salton Sea. After this battle, the Salton Sea destroyed this tourist hotspot and left nothing but remnants of this war.

If you like the fascinating combination of destruction and modern art, this is the perfect place for you. Graffiti the walls, paint the town red, or click some pictures at this iconic beach.

2. History of Bombay Beach California

For many years, the gushing Colorado river has flowed into Lake Cahuilla. In 1905, the river’s water jutted out through a barrier of rocks and flooded the plain to create the Salton Sea. It slowly became the largest lake in California history.

This was the emergence of a desert hotspot, where half a million tourists visited every year. This included notable celebrities such as Bing Crosby, the Marx Brothers, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Desi Arnaz, and the Beach Boys.

These tourists came here to ski onto this lake’s salty yet aesthetically pleasing waters or observe beautiful marine life. Other activities include speedboating, where 5 world records were broken.

The charm of this idyllic lake slowly faded away due to three main factors. Salton city was abandoned by its developer Penn Phillips in 1960, who left behind only a few houses and empty roads.

The second shock that this charming city endured was when severe storms debilitated the resorts and hotels. This led to a rapid change from an economic boom to a recession and, finally, the decline of its tourism industry.

The fish die-offs due to significant toxicity levels were the last straw. This led to the resulting ban on fishing.

A booming economy, millions of tourists, and the scenic beauty of Salton Lake were all of the gems that Salton city lost.

The significant attractions of Bombay beach have now changed from the fun activities and breath-taking views to the post-apocalyptic remnants such as trailers and poles that have crashed onto the sand and are now considered art.

3. The Art Movement in Bombay Beach California

Thousands of artists, musicians, dancers, and filmmakers have used the Bombay beach ruins to inspire or outlet for their art. The charismatic allure of chaos amid calm drew artists to this area.

Big-time filmmakers feel that the Bombay beach ruins make the perfect setting for a post-apocalypse documentary or a zombie movie. Countless movies have been shot in Bombay Beach California.

An award-winning documentary called Bombay beach is one of them. Directed by Alma Harel, an Israeli music video director, this movie narrates the lives of three protagonists living on the Bombay beach.

This brilliant piece unravels, layer by layer, the truth behind the American dream. This is portrayed in the context of Bombay beach, which was transformed from a pompous place for the rich and famous to a wasteland, all in decades.

In 2013, Bombay Beach California was deployed in a promotional video for the fifth season of Animal Planet’s River Monsters. It was the ideal setting for the opening episode of the sixth season episode of the Mentalist, CBS’s police procedural series.

The Austrian singer Christina Stürmer used Bombay Beach as a setting, the ideal contrast for her upbeat music video.

The sensational death bells also left their musical mark on Bombay beach California, performing live during the pandemic. They liked the vibe of destruction and decline amid Bombay beach and found it suitable for their loud, captivating music.

The songs from their new signs of life album mirrored the condition of a post-apocalyptic world, just like in Bombay Beach California.

Playing a fusion of post-punk and garage rock, Death bells rocked the place with their tunes. They’re a collaboration between Remy Veselis and Will Canning.

Other than music videos and movies, there are various art installations. So, check out the edgy artworks, upbeat music, and mind-gripping films that are the offspring of the Bombay beach biennale.

4. Art Installations at Bombay Beach California

The beautiful artworks made in the Bombay beach biennale can be summed up in a few words: eccentric renditions of the Bombay beach ruin.

Turning trash into a magnificent masterpiece is what these artists specialize in. Some of their works are now also the top tourist attractions here.

If you’re into extraordinary yet downright bizarre art, here are a few of the most significant picks:

4.1. Lodestar

A perfect piece of abstract art, this artwork was also featured on Burning Man in 2018. Interestingly, its creator, Randy Polumbo, has represented it as a techno-organic flower.

What’s crazier than a giant-leaning airplane with a spaceship-like figure? That’s the brilliance of this piece. It gives us major futuristic vibes- like of the times with aliens, destruction, and edgy art to depict it all.

Then again, to some, it’s just a fighter jet holding a structure made out of wire mesh. Masterpieces like this are interpreted in multiple manners.

This creative art installation gives life to the once destroyed Bombay Beach California, making it a tourist hotspot. When the lights are switched on the night, this artwork looks like a gorgeous pink flower or a ride on one of those fun summer carnivals.

4.2. The Event Horizon

The event horizon is a breathtaking piece of art created by Martin Taylor in which a black hole is depicted in an abstract form. Multiple razor-sharp blades colored with traces of autumn shades make the perfect representation of the black hole in this outstanding art piece.

These hunks of metal are attached end to end in a spiral. You can take amazing pictures of this artwork and flex in front of everyone. Don’t try to go through it, though, or you might never come back!

While this is a joke, in reality, an event horizon is the boundary of a black hole through which nothing can pass. The metal edges and the never-ending spiral flawlessly depict destruction and the idea of no escape or end, just like in an actual black hole.

4.3. Bombay Beach California Drive-in

Are you in the mood to view classy retro settings? Bombay Beach has got you covered. The iconic drive-in at Bombay beach California is a yard of cars part of an art exhibit.

Vintage cars, boards with graffiti, and quotes from old Hollywood blockbusters can do you no wrong. So, take tons of pictures of the drive-in.

A massive board with writing presents the Carnival of Dreams, a popular movie. Some of the vintage cars in it have broken doors to emphasize the authenticity of art made from the rubble.

Lights, camera, get in on the action at Bombay beach! Out of them, a Pacer has been decorated with old VHS tapes and a quote from back to the future. One car even has directors’ clapboards (the slates that movie directors use to yell action or cut) instead of wheels to represent the outlets for watching movies in the past.

4.4. Da Vinci Flying fish

Is it a fish or an airplane? It’s hard to tell. Sean Guerrero and his team created this abnormally sized creature to represent naval aviation and the abundance of fish on Bombay beach California during the 1950s.

This artwork was used in the 4th Annual Bombay beach biennale, Honoring the now-dead fish consumed by the apocalypse.

This statement piece has been used by its artists to represent the prevalent environmental issues in Bombay beach town. Built from a decommissioned executive jet fuselage perched atop a recycled semi-axel, this kinetic sculpture soars high at 25 feet.

All in all, this absurd fish airplane is fun to look at. Make sure you capture it swirling about its axel, powered by prevailing winds and solar electricity. If you’re the kind who loves bizarre cartoons like Rick and Morty, you will love this piece.

4.5. The Zig Zag House

With its bold geometric patterns, vivid colors, and fun zig-zag lines, the zig-zag house is a gorgeous piece of art. The artists experimented on a white house as their canvas, using designs and decor from the 70s.

They have showcased out-of-the-box thinking by placing ornaments on the top of the house instead of inside it. This art installation blurs the lines between modern and historical art by breaking the paradigm standards.

Let the fun follow you in this party house!

4.6. The Water Isn’t That Bad; It’s Just Salty

Created by Chris Wessman and Damon James Duke, this piece of art titled “The water isn’t that bad, it’s just salty” is a simple, innocent swing-set glittering in the sun.

It’s in perfect triangular shape sitting atop the mesmerizing still waters. The calm and tranquil setting around this artwork has been used to symbolize the innocence of the Salton seawater.

4.7. The Only Other Thing Is Nothing

A huge sign on the beach says, “only another thing is nothing,” created by Michael Daniel Birnberg. It represents the vast nothingness that fills the void of Bombay Beach, California.

5. Other Attractions in Bombay Beach California

Overall, these are great places to check out if you’re an art lover. However, there are also multiple other exciting places to visit here for an exciting day:

5.1. Ski Inn at Bombay Beach California

Good food, great vibe, and refreshing beer. What more could you possibly want? Cozy up in this place with a homely feel where the interior is covered with thousands of dollar bills. You can also hang a dollar bill here and sign your name.

Sitting low at 223 feet, it is called the “lowest bar in the western hemisphere.” The same people have run this nice bar with an upbeat atmosphere for over 25 years. An episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations was shot here.

It used to have multiple thrilling attractions, like bands and video poker games. It was also featured in an episode of the Mentalist called “Borrego Gas Diner.” However, that chapter closed when the people who visited Bombay Beach, California, suddenly disappeared.

This place is a must-visit if you want to feel lively in this abandoned wasteland. Have a drink and hear a lovely story about Bombay beach’s journey.

5.2. Polaroid Museum at Bombay Beach California

This museum is a little PG-18, so don’t bring your kids here because there are a lot of nude photos. Built-in a magnificent white trailer, the 3–4-minute walk inside this museum will take you through many excellent retro items from the 1960s and 1970s.

There are many old polaroid pictures, some about the environmental concerns during that time, and a few candid nude photos. The 60s-style kitchen contains green appliances and vibrant floral yellow wallpaper.

The living room floor is carpeted with fake green grass. Sitting atop the carpet is a simplistic, classic orange couch. Other than these, there are multiple other rooms decorated in colorful lights with polaroid photos hanging perfectly on the walls.

This is the best place to learn about and appreciate the cultures and themes prevalent during that time, as visible in the furniture and the photos. Many abstract masterpieces have also been hung here, along with a board dedicated to the photographer.

6. Top Hotels in Bombay Beach California

When going on vacation, we want to help you make sure that you have the most comfortable stay. This is why we have drawn up a list of the top hotels in the vicinity of Bombay beach.

Some of the rooms even have Salton Sea views! So, enjoy a relaxing getaway as you stay at one of the best hotels:

6.1. Calipatria Inn & Suites

Offering the best services and facilities in a unique environment, The Calipatria Inn and Suites is the paradise you’re looking for. Have your dream vacation tanning in the sun at the “oasis in the desert” (The Calipatria Inn and Suites).

Its strategic location makes it the perfect choice for your Imperial Valley lodging requirements. The Calipatria Inn & Suites is the closest multi-service accommodation to many places you might need to visit.

Walk over to the Salton Sea with no effort and observe some of the precious art along the Bombay beach desert.

You can also easily access Cal Energy Operating Plants, Hudson Ranch Plant, Mineral Company, Salvation Mountain, Wister Hunting Area, and the Hot Mineral Spas, located very close to this Inn. From June 1st, you can also access the Pool and Spa if you visit.

So, what are you waiting for? Book your room now to enjoy the most relaxing experience.

6.2. Sea & Sun Lodges-Motel

With scenic views, cozy beds, and endless utilities, this hotel will be the best part of your trip. There’s a coffee-maker, kitchen, cable TV, blow dryer, microwave, and refrigerator.

This grand hotel will give you a homely feel even thousands of miles away from home. You will feel like you never left!

Sea and Sun Motel offers many exciting activities such as camping, hiking, bird watching, fishing, and boating in the beautiful Salton Sea, just a few kilometers away. Additionally, visitors staying at the Sea and Sun Motel may visit the nearby Red Earth Casino.

So, grab a bite at the motel before stopping by to gamble and then enjoy many fun recreational opportunities.

6.3. Ray and Carol’s Motel by the Sea

This motel is the only one in Salton city, so it will give you the best views of the Salton Sea and the opportunity to walk onto this body of water for a relaxing tan. You can also do a lot of fun water sports in this area or look at the beautiful historical sites.

To join in on the fun, plan a trip now. It would help if you also went to some of the gorgeous beaches in California after a stay at Bombay beach. These include Native American ruins, revolutionary war remnants, and even stunning artworks created at Bombay beach California.

These exciting art installations and the places to stay are the two legs that this town is standing on. Visit this unconventional place to experience its rich heritage and bring life to its wasteland.

Overall, this town has an inspiring story. Determined artists are still working to turn this zombie town into an off-the-chart art hub. This leads us to believe that there’s still hope after complete ruin. Don’t you?

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