Essential Arts & Culture: What L.A. loses if we lose the NEA; starchitecture in Hamburg; Kerry James Marshall at MOCA

A deeper look at what cutting the National Endowment for the Arts means to U.S. culture. The exhilarating paintings of Kerry James Marshall. And the latest building by Herzog & de Meuron. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with the week’s most essential arts stories (and parody video):

Trump and the NEA

Times theater critic Charles McNulty looks at President Trump’s proposed NEA cuts through the lens of plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov and Pinter (the last is known for penning a character in “The Homecoming” with a penchant for confabulation) — and makes a case for why culture is essential. “Literature, theater, music and the visual arts promote contemplation,” writes McNulty. “They invite individuals to ask questions, consider alternative views and second-guess what they’ve been brainwashed into believing.” Los Angeles Times

Times music critic Mark Swed also weighs in. He notes that the U.S. spends a pittance on culture in comparison with nations such as France, Germany and Russia. But in wanting to eliminate funding, Trump may be poking a hornet’s nest. “No one can stir up revolutionary furor like artists and educators,” he writes. “Trump is old enough to remember how effective culture and colleges were in turning America against the Vietnam War and ultimately bringing down a president.” Los Angeles Times

The Times is producing a series of reports that look at what SoCal’s cultural landscape would look like without NEA funding. (Barren.) Writer Jessica Gelt has written pieces on how federal arts funding has been vital to the success of organizations such as the Lula Washington Dance Theatre and the Cornerstone Theatre Company, the latter of which stages works directly tied to the lives of L.A.’s inhabitants. Los Angeles Times

And because too much NEA is never enough: Podcaster Tyler Green has devoted this week’s show to the subject — and Times art critic Christopher Knight makes an appearance. Modern Art Notes

Critic Charles Desmarais looks at how slashing the agency could kill U.S. museums on the insurance front. San Francisco Chronicle

The former GOP governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, offers a conservative plea for keeping the agency funded, while incoming CalArts president Ravi Rajan argues that killing the arts hurts rich and poor alike. Washington Post, Newsweek

And because I love to make lists, I made a list of all the things the NEA’s $148-million budget could buy. In terms of infrastructure, not much. But it does you get you a whole lotta taco bowls. Los Angeles Times

Must-see: Mansplainer vs. ‘lady’ writers

In 1971, the muy macho Norman Mailer moderated and parried with a panel of feminist thinkers that included Germaine Greer, Jill Johnston and literary critic Diana Trilling. That riotous gender face-off is now the basis of the Wooster Group’s latest play, “The Town Hall Affair,” on view at REDCAT. “By presenting the arguments as a shifting kaleidoscope, the Wooster Group keeps us from identifying with one point of view,” writes Charles McNulty. “The historical lens that’s playfully imposed throws into relief the unresolved nature of these still boisterous conflicts.” Los Angeles Times

Black and white

Over the course of his career, painter Kerry James Marshall (who, for a key period in his life, lived in Los Angeles) has introduced the black figure and themes of blackness into a body of work that highlights the dearth of black subjects on museum walls. His retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Los Angeles, writes Christopher Knight, is “exhilarating.” The show, he adds, “is the first time in a long time that MOCA’s exhibition program has felt essential.” Los Angeles Times

Plus, Knight checks out L.A. artist Steven Hull’s “carnivalesque hybrids of painting and sculpture” at Meliksetian Briggs gallery in West Hollywood. The centerpiece of this “incisive show,” he writes, “puts white nationalism and its perversion of authentic Christian values on sordid display.” Los Angeles Times

2017 architecture — in one building

Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne was recently in Germany getting a gander at the new Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron. The building, he says, embodies a mix of cultural tourism favorites with celebrity architecture and Instagram-friendly design — with huge budgets to match. “Was it worth it?” he asks. “My guess is that in a decade or so Hamburg will have decided that it was, just as Sydney would never give up its similarly over-budget opera house and fans of Disney Hall tend to forget how long its construction was delayed in the 1990s.” Los Angeles Times

Schubert & Beckett, et al.

Playwright Samuel Beckett had an affinity for music — and once famously called composer Franz Schubert a “friend in suffering.” The Los Angeles Philharmonic brought the two together in the production “Night and Dreams: A Schubert & Beckett Recital,” directed by Yuval Sharon. “Rather than having Schubert songs or short piano pieces set the stage for short theater works, or visa versa,” writes Mark Swed, “Sharon bled Schubert’s music into Beckett, and Beckett right back into Schubert, as the singers and pianists became actors, and the actors conveyed text with hypnotic rhythmic alacrity.” Los Angeles Times

Swed also checked in with the Calder Quartet for the second installment of the group’s three-year Beethoven quartet cycle at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica — a show that included some “astonishing listening.” Los Angeles Times

And he reports on a recent show by the L.A. Phil — led by French conductor Stéphane Denève — that featured the West Coast premiere of a piano concerto by Scottish composer James MacMillan. The music, writes Swed, featured a “welcoming power” and reflected on the idea “that national spirit can and maybe must be illuminated by spirituality not as dogma but as something more universally unifying.” Los Angeles Times

Sort of related: Critic Alex Ross looks at how the L.A. Phil can stay on top of the symphonic world in the wake of president Deborah Borda’s departure. New Yorker

On the trail of Yma Sumac

My editors here at The Times have graciously indulged my obsession with Yma Sumac, the ’50s-era Peruvian chanteuse known for her startling range and for being a pioneer of exotica. I look at how Los Angeles shaped her sound and look. “Sumac was channeling a concocted notion of Inca identity as an invented Inca princess,” I write. “A fiction born in Peru adds another layer of fiction in Hollywood, and from that fiction rises Yma Sumac.” The story contains obligatory references to Styrofoam volcanoes and El Pollo Loco. Los Angeles Times

Culture as weapon

I also review curator Nato Thompson’s latest book, “Culture as Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life,” which looks at how culture is deployed to sell iPhones and wage war. It can feel scattered in parts but is at its “most effective when [it] is dissecting what it is about culture that makes it such a potent social tool.” Los Angeles Times

In other news…

— The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to demolish the Welton Becket-designed Parker Center and build a $480-million office tower in its stead. Los Angeles Times

— Sort of related: Measure S may have been voted down, but that doesn’t mean L.A. should proceed with business-as-usual as far as development goes. Los Angeles Times

— Plus, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration has been lousy at creating bike lanes. Joe Linton offers ideas for improvement. Streetsblog LA

— The return of the conversation pit. Curbed

Patti Smith has bought the home of one of France’s most beloved poets, Arthur Rimbaud. Architectural Digest

Trisha Brown, a pillar of postmodern dance, has died. New York Times

Sacramento Ballet dancers are looking to unionize as the company’s artistic directors feud with the board. Sacramento News & Review

— The New York Times has named Jesse Green its co-chief theater critic. New York Times

— How “Miss Saigon” changed Broadway. New York Times

“Cloud 9,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” and “The Boy From Oz” took top honors at the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle awards. Los Angeles Times

Carey Perloff will retire as director of the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco after 25 years. San Jose Mercury News

— Parsing the mess at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vanity Fair

— The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach has named Lourdes Ramos of Puerto Rico as its first Latina president. Los Angeles Times

— The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust has also named a new executive team. Los Angeles Times

— And because one can never have too many new hires: The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles has appointed a new education director and an assistant curator. ARTnews

— Plus, the Mike Kelley Foundation has announced a new round of grants — $319,000 in total — to go to Chicano muralists, the Industry experimental opera company and the Chinatown exhibition space Human Resources, among others. Los Angeles Times

— A report released at Art Basel Hong Kong says wealth inequality could endanger the art market. Artsy

— A white artist’s depiction of Emmett Till in his coffin leads to protests at the Whitney Biennial. New York Times

Trump has been really good for sales of poster board. Artnet

And last but not least…

Father Guido Sarducci on art school. All of it totally true. YouTube

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carolina.miranda@latimes.com

@cmonstah

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