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#12 Reshaping Museums with Michael Govan


Guest Michael Govan © Museum Associates/Lacma

Art Agency, Partners
#12 Reshaping Museums with Michael Govan

BY Charlotte Burns
executive editor of In Other Words

Michael Govan, the director and CEO of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, joins us for a special feature podcast from California. We talk about the future for Lacma—from the transformation of the campus to the possibilities of sharing the collection and opening branches elsewhere. We discuss subjects from fundraising and philanthropy in LA, the role of museums in brokering cultural identities and the importance of “embracing the power of difference” to VR technology in art.

“In Other Words” is a presentation of AAP and Sotheby’s, produced by

For a full transcript, click here


Michael Govan

CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Michael Govan joined the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director in 2006. Since his arrival, Govan has transformed not only the museum’s collection but also the way it is experienced by its audience. Currently the museum is in the midst of replacing four aging museum buildings with a single new state of the art gallery building designed by architect Peter Zumthor.

Govan has facilitated new creative interactions between contemporary artists and architects and the museum’s historic collections, commissioning exhibition and gallery designs in collaboration with artists John Baldessari, Jorge Pardo and Franz West, and architects Frank O. Gehry, Fred Fisher, Michael Maltzan, Amy Murphy, Kulapat Yantrasast, and others.

Under Govan’s leadership, Lacma has begun a program to place its collections and exhibitions in underserved communities in Los Angeles County, the first adjacent to MacArthur Park in collaboration with Charles White Elementary School. Today, Lacma operates the largest in-school art education program of any art museum in the US.

From 1994 to 2006, Govan was president and director of Dia Art Foundation where he spearheaded the creation of the critically acclaimed Dia:Beacon in New York’s Hudson Valley. Prior to Dia Art Foundation, Govan served for six years as deputy director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Charlotte Burns

executive editor of In Other Words

Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.

Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.

The live record

Behind the Scenes: Reshaping Museums with Michael Govan

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By Pablo Helguera

For more on Michael Govan:

“James Turrell” by Michael Govan in Interview (2011)

“Is This Los Angeles’s $600 Million Man?” in the New York Times (2017)

“Meet the museum director who hangs with Leo and Kanye and paid $10 million for a rock” in the Washington Post (2015)

“Michael Govan on Lacma and the Pressures of a Museum Director” in Surface (2015)

“Lacma Director Michael Govan on the Future of Museums” in artnet News (2016)

“How’d You Get There? Director CEO of Museum: Michael Govan” interview by Williams College


For Lacma commissions and installations orchestrated by Michael Govan:

Chris Burden, Urban Light (2008)

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Shafted) (2008)

Robert Irwin, Primal Palm Garden (2010)

Tony Smith, Smoke (1967; installed 2008)

Michael Heizer, Levitated Mass (2012)


For exhibitions co-curated by Michael Govan:

Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time” (2016–17) at Lacma, now at Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City

James Turrell: A Retrospective” (2013–14) at Lacma

The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA” (2013) at Lacma

Dan Flavin: A Retrospective” (2004), organized by Dia in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. The exhibition concluded its international tour at Lacma in 2007


For more on Lacma Exhibitions and Projects:

“Argentine slums and a unabomber cabin: How ‘Home’ at Lacma rethinks ideas about Latin American art” in the Los Angeles Times (2017)

“Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Carne y Arena proves that great virtual reality means going beyond the headset” in The Verge (2017)

“Inside Alejandro Iñárritu’s VR border drama at Lacma: What you will see and why you might cry” in the Los Angeles Times (2017)

“Lacma funding transformative renovation of Charles White Elementary School Art Gallery” by the Los Angeles Unified School District (2017)

Official website of Lacma’s proposed renovation

Where to look

Significant Lacma-Related Projects and Exhibitions

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