Michael Govan

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Michael Govan is the current director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Prior to becoming the director of LACMA in 2006, Govan worked as the director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Washington, D.C. in 1963, Govan graduated from Williams College, with a B.A. in Art History.[1] Following this, Govan studied art at UCSD.


It was a job offer from Thomas Krens that led Govan to drop out of graduate school: He served as deputy director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum under Krens from 1988 to 1994, a time of great expansion plans that culminated in Frank Gehry's Guggenheim branch in Bilbao, Spain.[2] Among other tasks, he supervised the reinstallation of the museum’s permanent collection galleries after its extensive renovation.[3]

From 1994 to 2006, Govan was president and director of Dia Art Foundation in New York City, where he spearheaded the creation of the Dia:Beacon, a museum in New York’s Hudson Valley that houses Dia’s collection of art from the 1960s to the present. Dia’s collection itself nearly doubled in size during Govan’s tenure.[1] However, he was widely criticized for "needlessly and permanently" closing Dia's West 22nd Street building.[4]

In 2006, LACMA trustees including the late Nancy M. Daly recruited Govan to run the museum.[5] As director, Govan is widely regarded for having revitalized LACMA, bringing the museum to cultural prominence in Los Angeles.[6] Under his supervision, the museum has sponsored contemporary art installations such as Chris Burden's Urban Light, and Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass. Govan has also made his imprint on the design of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum.[7] He commissioned an installation of vintage street lamps by the artist Chris Burden in front of the entrance pavilion, and a sort of palm tree retrospective by the artist Robert Irwin. In his first three full years, the museum raised $251 million -- about $100 million more than it collected during the three years before he arrived.[8] In 2010, it was announced that Govan will steer LACMA for at least six more years.[9] In a letter dated February 24, 2013, Govan, along with the LACMA board’s co-chairmen Terry Semel and Andrew Gordon, proposed a merger with the financially troubled Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and a plan to raise $100 million for the combined museum.[10]

Govan and his family now live for free in a $5-million house in Hancock Park provided by LACMA - a benefit worth $126,500 a year, according to tax filings.[11] He keeps a 1979 Beechcraft Bonanza at Santa Monica Airport.[12]


  1. ^ a b Michael Govan bio at one time putatively posted on Los Angeles County Museum of Art's lacma.org. Page not found there 2015-10-24.
  2. ^ Jori Finkel (May 15, 2011), A master works his magic on museum Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ Edward Wyatt (March 28, 2007), A Director Weighs in With a Curatorial Touch New York Times.
  4. ^ Jerry Saltz (January 16, 2014), Saltz on Philippe Vergne, Former DIA Head and the New L.A. MoCA Director New York Magazine.
  5. ^ Jori Finkel (May 15, 2011), A master works his magic on museum Los Angeles Times.
  6. ^ "If He Builds It, You Will Come". Wall Street Journal. 
  7. ^ Edward Wyatt (February 10, 2008), To Have and Give Not New York Times.
  8. ^ Alan Zarembo and Mike Boehm (August 18, 2009), Behind Michael Govan's almost $1-million LACMA salary Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ Mike Boehm (October 23, 2010), Michael Govan's LACMA contract renewal revealed Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Carol Vogel (March 7, 2013), New Proposal to Merge Art Museums in Los Angeles New York Times.
  11. ^ Alan Zarembo and Mike Boehm (August 18, 2009), Behind Michael Govan's almost $1-million LACMA salary Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ Mike Boehm (January 16, 2009), LACMA director Govan is piloting prudently Los Angeles Times.

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