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Essential Arts & Culture: Border wall bids, Pritzker's starchitect retreat, Hamburg's magical new concert hall

Essential Arts & Culture: Border wall bids, Pritzker's starchitect retreat, Hamburg's magical new concert hall
A U.S. protester waves a Mexican flag over the border wall that divides Mexico and the U.S. in 2016. (European Pressphoto Agency)

Architecture's most prestigious prize. The Southern California firms that are interested in building President Trump's border wall. And a look at a popular new concert hall in Hamburg, Germany. I'm Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, with your weekly dose of artsy goodness:

And the Pritzker goes to…

The 2017 Pritzker laureates, from left: Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta.
The 2017 Pritzker laureates, from left: Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta. (Javier Lorenzo Domínguez / Pritzker Architecture Prize)

Architecture's biggest prize was awarded this week and it didn't go to a starchitect who builds glossy wave forms. Instead, the Pritzker Prize went to a trio of Catalan architects — Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramon Vilalta, who founded the firm RCR Arquitectes — for "an approach that creates buildings and places that are both local and universal at the same time." Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne parses the politics behind this unusual selection. Los Angeles Times

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A 1971 streetscape captured by the L.A. collective Environmental Communications.
A 1971 streetscape captured by the L.A. collective Environmental Communications. (Environmental Communications / LAXART)

Plus, Hawthorne paid a visit to a new show by the media collective Environmental Communications at LAXART in Hollywood, an exhibition that gathers imagery of the L.A. landscape over time. He writes: "The collective operated precisely in the years when the crisp, upbeat mid-century modernism of Craig Ellwood, Charles and Ray Eames and Raphael Soriano, among many others, morphed into the darker, more anxious and unpretty work" of L.A. school figures such as Eric Owen Moss, Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry. Los Angeles Times

Designing Trump’s border wall

An aerial view of the U.S.-Mexico border in Southern California. San Ysidro is at bottom and Tijuana is at top.
An aerial view of the U.S.-Mexico border in Southern California. San Ysidro is at bottom and Tijuana is at top. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The federal government issued a pre-solicitation last week for the design and construction of a prototype for what could be the eventual U.S.-Mexico border wall that President Trump has promised to build. Design writer Kriston Capps sorted through the list to see what types of firms have expressed interest in the job. Citylab

I subsequently rang up some of the interested vendors from Southern California to see why they might want to take on this controversial project. Money was one answer. But for a bicoastal pair of architects, one of whom teaches at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, it is also an opportunity to subvert the idea of a wall. Los Angeles Times

Sort of related: A roundup of memorable border art. Voice of San Diego

Looking away

Al Pacino plays Tennessee Williams in "God Looked Away" at the Pasadena Playhouse.
Al Pacino plays Tennessee Williams in "God Looked Away" at the Pasadena Playhouse. (Jim Cox)

Dotson Rader's "God Looked Away," at the Pasadena Playhouse, examines the inebriated last chapter of playwright Tennessee Williams' storied life, with Al Pacino in the lead role. Times theater critic Charles McNulty says the production is problematic on a lot of levels — from the unresolved narrative arc to the fact that the work is being billed as "in development" while charging audiences a whopping three figures for tickets. Los Angeles Times

Old man blues and more

A detail from Llyn Foulkes collaged painting "To Bernie, From Llyn," 2016.
A detail from Llyn Foulkes collaged painting "To Bernie, From Llyn," 2016. (Spruth Magers)

Times art critic Christopher Knight has been hitting the galleries and has a trio of new reviews. First up: The pointed political collages of L.A. artist Llyn Foulkes at Sprüth Magers. Foulkes may be 82 years old, but his ambitious works, writes Knight, tell "no tale of an artist truly throwing in the towel." Los Angeles Times

Knight also paid a visit to Richard Telles Fine Art, where he took in a set of new sculptures by Jim Iserman, an artist whose "offbeat mix" fuses "high art, handicraft and commercial design." Los Angeles Times

A detail of Petra Cortright's "man_bulbGRDNopenz@CharlesSchwaabSto9ds," 2016.
A detail of Petra Cortright's "man_bulbGRDNopenz@CharlesSchwaabSto9ds," 2016. (1301PE)

And, last but not least, is the show of Petra Cortright's new digitally printed paintings at 1301PE, abstractions that Knight likens to the gestures of touch-screen drag-and-drop. "There's some tension between old and new conceptions of "the artist's touch,'" he writes of the work. "But as yet it's more cerebral than intuitive." Los Angeles Times

Hamburg’s hot new concert hall

Conductor Thomas Hengelbrock and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra at the opening concert of the hall in January.
Conductor Thomas Hengelbrock and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra at the opening concert of the hall in January. (Christian Charisius / AFP / Getty Images)

Times classical music critic Mark Swed is trotting around Germany (as classical music critics often do), and his first dispatch is on a wildly popular new concert hall in Hamburg, designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron. In its design, the Elbphilharmonie evokes nautical themes — not unlike L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall. And like Disney Hall, the sound design is by by Yasuhisa Toyota, who has created here what is said to be "the world's most advanced acoustics." Swed took in performances of compositions by Mahler, Schubert and Shostakovich and reports some moments of "pure magic." Los Angeles Times

Plus, Swed, who has also been trotting around Japan (dude is everywhere) offers a deeper look at Toyota's work, the man whose sound design has shaped the sound of concert halls around the world. Los Angeles Times

Big donations

A detail of an untitled image by Ruth Bernhard from 1936 — part of a major donation of photographic works to the Getty Museum.
A detail of an untitled image by Ruth Bernhard from 1936 — part of a major donation of photographic works to the Getty Museum. (Ruth Bernhard / Getty Museum)

It was a week of big art donations in L.A. The J. Paul Getty Museum announced a gift of 386 photographs — including historic images by key 20th century artists such as Berenice Abbott, Eudora Welty and Dorothea Lange — from L.A. collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles collectors Alan Hergott, left, and Curt Shepard announced a major donation to MOCA. They sit before works by Rudolf Stingel and Luc Tuymans in their Beverly Hills home.
Los Angeles collectors Alan Hergott, left, and Curt Shepard announced a major donation to MOCA. They sit before works by Rudolf Stingel and Luc Tuymans in their Beverly Hills home. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Meanwhile, across town, collectors Alan Hergott and Curt Shepard donated 22 works to the Museum of Contemporary Art. For almost three decades, the couple has collected painting, photography and installation that explore issues of masculinity, gender and queer identity — a focus that was once derided as "too niche" but was prescient for the burning contemporary issues it now explores. Los Angeles Times

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A little bit more Oscars

One of the Deco-heavy sets for the Academy Awards on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
One of the Deco-heavy sets for the Academy Awards on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

And because who can get enough of the Oscars during the year of the tweeting PricewaterhouseCoopers accountant? In addition to our movie team, out in force throughout the Dolby, theater critic McNulty managed to score a ticket to the real-deal live show. He reports that the theme for the night (besides massive accounting screw-ups) was "empathy" — for a show that "brilliantly calibrated to remind us of the power artists have to unite us through cinematic storytelling." Los Angeles Times

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Architecture critic Hawthorne also snagged a ticket for the show and he writes about how the presentation and the set's hyper nostalgic 1920s vibe came off as "an utterly charming but fully retrograde celebration of prewar L.A." Los Angeles Times

And, in case you missed it, The Times' Jeffrey Fleishman was backstage during the big Oscar meltdown. Cue the best thing uttered over the weekend: "Oh my God, he got the wrong envelope." Los Angeles Times

***Note to Oscars: Short arts newsletter writers with big hair could also use a ticket to the show. I may know one. Call me. K. Thx. Bai. <3<3<3

Saving Nina Simone’s house

American singer Nina Simone performs in 1964.
American singer Nina Simone performs in 1964. (Getty Images)

Randy Kennedy has a stirring story about how four prominent African American artists — Adam Pendleton, Rashid Johnson, Ellen Gallagher and Julie Mehretu — have quietly come together to save the North Carolina birthplace of legendary singer Nina Simone. "They describe the purchase as an act of art but also of politics," he writes, "a gratifying chance to respond to what they see as a deepening racial divide in America, when Simone's fiery example of culture warrior seems more potent than ever." New York Times

In other news…

Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel in Disney Hall last month.
Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel in Disney Hall last month. (Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

— The Los Angeles Philharmonic has announced its 2017-18 season. Says Gustavo Dudamel of the lineup: "We keep creating these bridges, destroying, in a way, the borders that we can have culturally." Los Angeles Times

— Defunding the National Endowment for the Arts could have a significant effect on U.S. museums. In a related story, the 11 arts groups that comprise New York's Lincoln Center have signed a public letter to save the NEA. The Art Newspaper, New York Times

— Longtime New York gallerist Juan Mosqueda was denied entry to the U.S. after a "36-hour nightmare." Mosqueda has been a legal resident for a decade. U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not comment on his deportation. The Architects Newspaper, CNN

— The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra have teamed up for an international collaboration that includes co-commissions, musician exchanges and tour performances. Boston Globe

— After theater critic Charles Isherwood's departure from the New York Times, a number of playwrights have prodded the paper to consider a woman of color for the role. Broadway Journal

— A nonprofit in Boyle Heights shuts down, citing harassment by anti-gentrification activists. Los Angeles Times

Banksy has a new art installation in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Los Angeles Times

Gustav Metzger, known for creating art that he also destroyed, has passed away at the age of 90. ARTnews

— The ICA LA (formerly the Santa Monica Museum of Art) will officially reopen on Sept. 9 in downtown Los Angeles with a show of works by outsider artist Martín Ramirez. Los Angeles Times

And last but not least…

The following photo, by The Times' Robert Gauthier, which looks just like one of those chaotic Dutch village scene paintings by Bruegel the Elder. I imagine that somewhere backstage, a pack of dogs are playing with a skull. Hooray for Hollywood!

Warren Beatty commands the microphone to explain what went wrong when "La La Land" was mistakenly announced as best picture.
Warren Beatty commands the microphone to explain what went wrong when "La La Land" was mistakenly announced as best picture. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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