A view from the Pacific: re-envisioning the art museum

Michael Govan
Event date
Event time
17:00 - 18:30
Ashmolean Museum
Beaumont Street
Venue details

Headley Lecture Theatre

Event type
Lectures and seminars
Disabled access?
Booking required

Michael Govan joined the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as Chief Executive Officer and Wallis Annenberg Director in 2006. In this role, he oversees all activities of the museum, including art programming and the Transformation campaign, an ambitious, multi-faceted building project that is expanding, upgrading and unifying the museum’s eight-building, twenty-acre campus (most recently including the addition of the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion).

Since Govan’s arrival at LACMA, he has realised his vision of contemporary artists interacting with the museum’s historic collections, as evidenced by John Baldessari’s installation of the exhibition Magritte and Contemporary Art, Jorge Pardo’s innovative gallery design for the museum’s permanent collection of ancient Latin American art, and Franz West’s installation design for an exhibition of the museum’s recently acquired collection of art of the Pacific Islands.

As part of LACMA’s Transformation, Govan has additionally orchestrated the commission and installation of the artist projects that populate the museum’s campus, beginning with Chris Burden’s Urban Light and Robert Irwin’s evolving palm garden. Under Govan’s leadership, the museum has acquired by donation or purchase more than 10,000 works for the permanent collection, including one of the most significant private collections of the art of the Pacific Islands assembled in the twentieth century, a collection of more than 500 examples of fashionable European dress and accessories dating from 1700 to 1915, and the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection of photography—3,500 prints that form one of the finest histories of photography from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. LACMA was also the recipient of the Lazarof Collection, a group of 130 works notable for its holdings of objects by leading figures of modern art.

From 1994 to 2006, Govan was President and Director of Dia Art Foundation in New York City, where he spearheaded the creation of the critically acclaimed, 292,000-square-foot Dia:Beacon, a museum in New York’s Hudson Valley that houses Dia’s renowned collection of art from the 1960s to the present. Dia’s collection itself nearly doubled in size during Govan’s tenure.

Highly regarded for his curatorial work as well as for his museum leadership, Govan co-curated the acclaimed touring exhibition Dan Flavin: A Retrospective, organised by Dia Art Foundation in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. The exhibition concluded its international tour at LACMA, where it was on view in summer 2007.

Prior to Dia Art Foundation, Govan served for six years as Deputy Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In that capacity, his work extended to Guggenheim branches in New York, Venice and Bilbao. While at the Guggenheim, he organised numerous major exhibitions and produced related scholarly publications, including the multi-disciplinary The Great Utopia: The Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde, 1915–1932, and oversaw the reinstallation of the museum’s collection galleries.

Michael Govan was born in 1963 in Washington, D.C. He holds a B.A. in Art History from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he served as Acting Curator of the Williams College Museum of Art and, in 1986, organised the exhibition Picasso and Rembrandt. Before continuing his studies at the University of San Diego, Govan studied Renaissance art in Italy.

The Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Museums, Galleries & Libraries has been developed in close collaboration with and made possible by the generous support of Foster + Partners.