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

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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little bit more Oscars

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

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.

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