Essential Arts: Takei steps in, Dudamel mixes it up, LACMA gets county's love

I'm Kelly Scott, arts and culture editor of the L.A. Times, and here are some of the stories you'll find in the arts pages of daily Calendar and Sunday Arts & Books, and also on the Culture Monster blog at

The right place and the right time

When a New Jersey auction house announced it would sell a collection of art made by prisoners in the internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, the uproar on social media was swift and intense. The story had a quiet but satisfying resolution this week. The work -- including paintings, photographs and sculpture -- was acquired by the Japanese American Museum in downtown Los Angeles in a deal that museum board member and "Star Trek" actor George Takei helped broker. Takei has been busy lately: He played a prominent role in the public opposition to religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas.

Centuries-old music with a new soul

(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

Gustavo Dudamel is leading the L.A. Phil in a series of diverse concerts this month, the last of the orchestra’s season. He led off with a program of Brahms and Bach this week and will wind up with the Phil’s Next on Grand festival focusing on new music. Mark Swed wrote that Brahms and Bach might look, at first glance, like "old" music, but both composers were boundary pushers in their day. Dudamel seems to be showing that today’s new music evolved from innovative music of all eras, Swed says.

Remember: Three-fifths of 'LACMA' is 'Los Angeles County'

The Broads, the Annenbergs and the Resnicks receive a lot of attention for their donations of money and art, but for the 50-year-old Los Angeles County Museum of Art, county taxpayers are the museum’s most devoted patrons. The boldfaced names gave LACMA 50 new works of art for its recent birthday, but the county has given $394 million over the years. Mike Boehm looks at the museum that receives more money from local government than any in the country.

A stunning show, in a little-known spot

On a recent trip to New York, Christopher Knight saw a splendid exhibition at a small museum: “Sculpture in the Age of Donatello: Renaissance Masterpieces From Florence Cathedrals” at the Museum of Biblical Art. The collection of 23 sculptures, including three works by Donato di Niccolò Bard (Donatello), shows the results of a lively competition between sculptors -- “Guys like Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti were were steadily nipping at Donatello’s heels," Knight writes. One unfortunate note: The Biblical Museum has lost its home and will close after the exhibition closes on June 14.

Presenting Bill Graham

So far this year we’ve seen a museum exhibition devoted to the Icelandic singer Bjork (New York's Museum of Modern Art), and a Yoko Ono retrospective is poised to open (also at MoMA) this month. Here in L.A., we're focusing on the guy who worked the phones, twisted the arms and closed the deals: the storied concert promoter Bill Graham. An exhibition at the Skirball Center called “Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll Revolution” evokes the man with guitars, posters, Janis Joplin's tambourine and Keith Richards’ boots. Skirball museum director Rabbi Robert Kirschner, who presided over Graham's memorial in 1991 after his death in a helicopter crash, says, “He basically invented the whole idea of rock theater.”

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

In short

Whether you know her from "Wicked," "Glee," "Frozen" or John Travolta mangling her name at the Oscars, you should also know that Idina Menzel is bringing her big voice and her Tony-nominated performance in the musical "If/Then" to the Pantages Theatre in December. ...  A Van Gogh painting sold for $66 million at Sotheby's. The price for "L’Allée des Alyscamps" is not a record, though; that would be the $82.5 million paid for "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" in 1990. ... More fallout from climate change: Mummies are melting in Chile.

Coming up

Charles McNulty reports from New York on the Tony-nominated shows he saw. ...  Mark Swed reviews the Armenian National Orchestra at Disney Hall. ... L.A. Ballet helps kick off the Cannes Film Festival with a new dance inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock movie "Vertigo."