Entertainment & Arts

Year in Review: The top Southern California arts and culture headlines of 2014

A rendering of the proposed design from Peter Zumthor for LACMA. The view is facing west from Wilshire Boulevard near Spaulding Avenue.

The year in the arts in Southern California has seen major institutional and creative accomplishments on the one hand and big controversies and disputes on the other.

In other words, a typical year. The organizations that made headlines in 2014 provided a glimpse into the agonies and ecstasies of creating art under complex circumstances, in a constantly changing cultural landscape.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art: The museum’s planned $600-million makeover hasn’t broken ground yet — and won’t for some time. But LACMA made headlines in 2014 with the county Board of Supervisors’ approval of initial funding of the gargantuan project as well as a major gift of art from entertainment mogul Jerry Perenchio.

San Diego Opera: The venerated opera company’s surprise announcement in March that it was closing after five decades was met with a public outcry and internal backlash. A bitter struggle saw the ousting of the opera’s longtime president, Ian Campbell, and a rebirth of the company, albeit on more modest terms.


Museum of Contemporary Art: After the turmoil of the Jeffrey Deitch years, MOCA found some semblance of stability in 2014. The museum named Philippe Vergne as its new director and welcomed back board members who had defected under the previous administration.

“The Death of Klinghoffer”: John Adams’ opera is more than two decades old, but the Metropolitan Opera’s first-ever staging this year generated national attention when the company canceled a planned simulcast to cinemas. The actual staging in New York was met with public protests at Lincoln Center.

Music Center turns 50: The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown L.A. opened five decades ago in 1964, inaugurating what would become the city’s largest performing arts institution.

Academy museum: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named Kerry Brougher as the new head of its planned movie museum. The appointment was praised by art-world insiders, who cited Brougher’s experience at MOCA and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.


Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts: In a surprise move, Executive Director Lou Moore departed the organization she helped to build from the ground up. Her resignation, which she blamed on a difference of vision with the board, left the center scrambling just weeks before the opening of its second season.

The Geffen Playhouse: A highly anticipated production of Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” unraveled after a feud between director William Friedkin and actor Steven Berkoff. The production was called off two weeks before the start of preview performances.

Norton Simon Museum: The legal tug of war over the museum’s coveted “Adam” and “Eve” paintings came to a head in June when a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals resurrected the case of a descendant of Jacques Goudstikker, a prominent Jewish art dealer in the Netherlands, from whom the works were seized by Nazis.

Hello Kitty: Before the opening of an exhibition devoted to the popular children’s character at the Japanese American National Museum, The Times broke the news that Hello Kitty isn’t a cat — a cartoon character, a little girl, a friend, yes, but not a cat. The Internet went crazy.

Twitter: @davidngLAT

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