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LACMA director Govan: 1,000,001 reasons to stay

September 27, 2008 | 11:13 am

Govan_3Every time a prominent top-executive job opens at a major art museum, Michael Govan's name quickly goes into the pot, at least the one stirred by outside speculation. After all, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's director is experienced, personable and skilled at wooing donors. Plus, being good-looking never hurts.

So was Govan a candidate for the director's gig at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation before the job went this week to Richard Armstrong, director of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art?

Govan, who launched his museum-administration career at the Guggenheim from 1988 to 1994 under Thomas Krens before running the Dia Art Foundation, says he certainly didn't throw his own hat in the ring: "I never would do that. I have a better job....the best job in America. Obviously they asked my advice, since I know the institution so well. I gave my two cents as an interested citizen."

Another factor for the punters to consider when Govan's name next comes into play: best job in the world or not, he literally has a million reasons to stay at LACMA through at least February 2011. Besides his salary (stated as $469,000 for about a half-year's work in 2005-06, LACMA's latest tax return posted on GuideStar), Govan's deal calls for the museum to salt away $200,000 a year for him for five years. The catch is, he doesn't get to collect any of it unless he stays the whole five.

That's one way to keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen New York.

--Mike Boehm

Photo: Michael Govan in front of LACMA's new Broad Contemporary Art Museum. Photo Credit:  Mel Melcon /Los Angeles Times