Category: Michael Govan

LACMA's big rock will finally roll Tuesday

February 24, 2012 |  5:28 pm

It’s official: After nearly half a year of delays, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 340-ton monolith, sitting in a Riverside County quarry, will finally begin its journey to the museum on Tuesday night.

The rock will hit the road on its custom-built transporter between 10 and 11p.m. and travel at the painstakingly slow speed of about 5 miles per hour. It’s due to arrive at LACMA in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, March 10.

From there -- likely the following Monday, the museum says -- the boulder will be loaded into its final resting place outside the Resnick Pavilion, where it will form the center of artist Michael Heizer’s enormous sculpture, “Levitated Mass.”  

The rock will travel through four counties and 22 cities, so it's no surprise that the numerous delays have been mostly due to permit issues -- not to mention the mind-boggling logistics of moving a two-story-high chunk of granite, weighing 680,000 pounds, through congested urban areas. 

Which is partly why, on Tuesday night, quarry owner Stephen Vanderhart will throw a reception for approximately 300 people to see the rock off, complete with a BBQ truck and a DJ.

Culture Monster will be there, of course, with updates throughout the evening. And, hey, we may even score one of Vanderhart’s custom T-shirts bearing the sentiment “Big. Rock. Roll.”


Between a rock and LACMA, it's a hard place

LACMA director Michael Govan dreams big

From Riverside to Los Angeles: The Heizer rock's roundabout route

Interactive: Getting the rock ready to roll

--Deborah Vankin

Photo: LACMA's rock. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times  

Getty posts salary of its new museum director

February 21, 2012 | 10:32 am

When Timothy Potts joins the Getty in September as its new museum director, he also will join the  narrow ranks of American museum directors who earn more than half a million dollars annually.
According to a compensation disclosure dated Feb. 14 and published on the Getty website, his base salary is $690,000, and this year he also will receive a signing bonus of $150,000.

This amount will place his salary among the highest within the Getty, after James Williams, Getty Trust chief investment officer and treasurer, whose base salary is currently $851,760, and James Cuno, Getty Trust chief executive and president, whose salary is $728,000. (In 2011, WIlliams' total compensation reached $1,040,822, while Cuno received $795,497, including a signing bonus of $250,000, moving allowance of $150,000, monthly housing allowance of $20,000, and salary for five months of service since his Aug. 1, 2011, start date.)

Traditionally the biggest compensation packages in the field have gone to the heads of the biggest New York museums. Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, received $1.32 million in salary and benefits for the fiscal year ending June 2009. And Thomas Campbell, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, earned $929,735 in salary and benefits for the fiscal year ending in June 2010.

L.A. County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan, whose compensation amounted to $915,000 over that time period, remains the best-paid museum director in L.A.

-- Jori Finkel

Photo: Getty Center. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

Chris Burden's 'Metropolis II' on view starting Saturday [Updated]

January 10, 2012 |  1:15 pm


Some artworks are valuable or delicate enough to need extra security. Chris Burden's new art installation, "Metropolis II," is complex enough to need an operator. The miniature city in motion consists of 1,100 Hot Wheels-sized cars, 25 large buildings, 18 lanes of traffic, 13 trains and one human operator.

Lead engineer Zak Cook described the work's complexity during its trial run, covered by the L.A. Times last week. "As you can imagine," he said, "this is a precision machine. These cars are going approximately 240 miles per hour to scale. If you're going 240 miles per hour in a Ferrari and hit a speed bump, you would be flying."

Continue reading »

What the new movie museum could mean for LACMA

October 6, 2011 |  9:00 am

Many are already calling plans for a new movie museum run by the Motion Picture Academy in the old May Co. building on the LACMA campus a win-win. Two years ago LACMA suspended its renovation plans for the building, above, for financial reasons. And for many years the Academy has had dreams of a museum, without owning the right kind of building to house it.

But looking at what LACMA stands to gain and lose, the balance sheet reads a bit differently.

On the plus side, LACMA stands to receive an unspecified amount of money for leasing their building to the Academy. And down the road the institution stands to gain attendance from having another tourist destination so close at hand. "We would expect that it would bring new and different visitors to the LACMA campus," says LACMA trustee Willow Bay, who describes this new alliance as part of LACMA director Michael Govan's larger vision for reaching new constituents and recognizing the importance of film.

On the downside, there is the loss of control over campus content, as public statements about the undertaking have said that the Academy "will retain autonomy over all aspects of its museum." Art blogger William Poundstone translates: "What some in the art world must be thinking: LACMA diminishes itself by bringing a non-art tourist attraction onto its campus."

Continue reading »

Countdown to Pacific Standard Time ends with a massive music video

October 3, 2011 |  9:00 am

Pacific Standard Time easily ranks as the biggest collaboration among California museums in history. And its kick-off celebration Sunday night ranks as one of the biggest museum parties in Southern California in recent years. Some 1,500 artists, curators, collectors, dealers and more RSVP'd (the actual numbers are not yet in) for a Getty Center bash directed by the ever-theatrical Ben Bourgeois.

Special effect: a montage of artworks and other images from the time period on display -- 1945 to 1980 -- was projected on the Getty's travertine buildings, set to a soundtrack that changed with the years. An image that flashed of the Woman's Building -- or was it the first notes of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love"? -- had the crowd cheering.

Themed food: Different stations set up outside the Getty Center took on different decades, with deviled eggs and ham and biscuits at a mock-USO club representing the '40s, root beer floats with paper straws offered by the Soda Shoppe for the '50s, meat and potatoes served up in the '60s, chocolate fondue a favorite of the '70s and hors d'oeuvres with smoked salmon and pesto coming from the '80s. One guest said: "This thing has more themes than a bar mitzvah planner."

Guests Culture Monster were not surprised to see: new Getty President and Chief Executive Jim Cuno and foundation head Deborah Marrow, Hammer Museum Director Annie Philbin, MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch and LACMA Director Michael Govan, as well as local museum patrons such as Lynda and Stewart Resnick.

Guests who made this event feel like a rare occasion: Thomas Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York; Light and Space pioneers Robert Irwin and Douglas Wheeler (who were, even rarer, seen talking to each other), and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who did not make it to the formal press launch last week but appeared by video instead.

Seeing the mayor, and wondering when the art world would see him again, made this writer think about a recent conversation with former L.A. Councilman Joel Wachs, now director of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York. Wachs described Pacific Standard Time as an initiative with the power to reach beyond the art world and perhaps even crack one of the toughest art audiences of all -- politicians.

"I don’t think people in Los Angeles -- decision makers, government officials and others -- fully understand and value what a remarkable creative community they have there," Wachs said. "Los Angeles’ creative community may be its greatest asset. I think this will open up a lot of people’s eyes."


 Pacific Standard Time makes a bid for L.A. in art history

Shining a Light on the Art of Light and Space

Event planner J. Ben Bourgeois creates wow moments

-- Jori Finkel

Photo: The Getty Center served as the location for the kickoff of "Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945-1980," and its travertine buildings served as screens for a massive music video that spanned the decades.


Michael Heizer's 'Levitated Mass' will soon journey to LACMA

September 22, 2011 |  6:50 pm

The "monolith" at Stone Granite Quarry with its transporter
Things are getting ready to roll, quite literally, for LACMA's "Levitated Mass."

On Thursday the museum led a hard-hat press tour to Stone Valley Quarry in Riverside to meet the object of its affection: a 340-ton, 21 1/2-foot-high granite boulder. “The monolith,” as LACMA calls it, will form the centerpiece of the outdoor sculpture-in-progress, “Levitated Mass” by artist Michael Heizer on the LACMA campus.

At Thursday’s quarry visit, Rick Albrecht of Emmert International, the firm that is transporting the boulder, explained that it will travel in a custom-built transporter, at night only, and average seven miles a day. The approximately 85-mile journey, normally a 1 1/2-hour drive, will take a circuitous route lasting a week to 10 days. Altogether, 50 to 60 people –- drivers, utility crews and police escorts among them –- will travel with the rock caravan.

The entire project, including the boulder, construction on the sculpture's site and transport, will cost between $5 million and $10 million, said museum director Michael Govan. It's largely being funded by private donations and through Hanjin Shipping.

Continue reading »

LACMA to stage fundraising gala for its film program

September 8, 2011 |  5:45 pm

Clint Eastwood and John Baldessari
In an effort to call attention to its revamped film program, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art said Thursday it will stage an Art + Film Gala on Nov. 5 honoring filmmaker Clint Eastwood and artist John Baldessari.

Proceeds from the fundraising event will be used to “support LACMA's initiative to make film more central to the museum's curatorial programming,” the museum said, including the weekly cinema series it co-sponsors with Film Independent.

The gala, to be held at LACMA, will be co-chaired by LACMA Trustee Eva Chow and by Leonardo DiCaprio, who stars in Eastwood's latest film, “J. Edgar,” which will have its world premiere at AFI Fest in Hollywood on Nov. 3.

Noting that Los Angeles is "the hub of the film industry" and "one of the most important centers in the world for contemporary art," museum director Michael Govan called this "an opportune time to bring these two globally important creative communities together at LACMA, acknowledging motion pictures' increasingly significant place in the whole history of art."

Many in the film industry questioned whether Govan understood that "significant place" two years ago when he suspended the museum's long-running weekend screening program and dismissed its respected overseer, Ian Birnie. But Govan subsequently vowed his support and in April this year announced a partnership for a new series with Film Independent, the nonprofit organization that runs the Los Angeles Film Festival. Veteran film critic Elvis Mitchell was brought in to run it.

LACMA said in announcing the gala that the proceeds, beyond supporting that film series, would go toward "exhibitions, acquisitions and educational programming."


Elvis Mitchell will head new LACMA film series

LACMA, Film Independent collaborate on new series

Martin Scorsese's open letter to Michael Govan

-- Lee Margulies 

Left: Clint Eastwood in 2009; credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times. Right: Baldessari in his studio; credit: Kim Schoenstadt.

LACMA's bond rating downgraded; Govan says it's no big deal

August 15, 2011 |  1:00 pm

LACMA's bond rating downgraded

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s bond rating has fallen from A2 to A3 in a downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service. Moody's warns that if the museum's investment portfolio were to lose a third of its value in a market meltdown, LACMA would be thrown into default.

But the museum's director, Michael Govan, says "that is an extremely unlikely situation," given that the museum's investments are significantly more conservative than they were when the portfolio shrank 23.4% during the global financial crisis of 2008-09.

Govan says LACMA's financial position is better now than it was in November, when Moody's last rated its $383 million in construction bonds and left the A2 rating in place. The main thing that's changed, he said, isn't the museum's financial solidity but that financial ratings services such as Moody's and Standard & Poor's have become tougher graders in general. They've come in for withering criticism for failing in their watchdog function before the meltdown.

Read: LACMA's bond rating drops to A3

Nevertheless, Govan acknowledged that the downgrade figures to cost the museum in the form of higher interest rates on its bonds.

He said LACMA has been paying about 3.5% interest -- rates that are reset weekly depending on market fluctuations. The total came to $14.7 million in interest payments during fiscal 2010-11 for the borrowing that has enabled LACMA to take a build-now-pay-later approach in an ongoing expansion and renovation that has yielded the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, Resnick Exhibition Pavilion and other improvements.

Continue reading »

Opera review: 'Barber of Seville' in Santa Barbara

August 8, 2011 |  2:46 pm

Barber of Seville Rossini is hot in the international opera world. Imaginative musicians, directors and scholars are rediscovering the striking originality and inventiveness of his operas. There are dozens, most unjustly ignored, that are being freshly reinterpreted, which typically means scandalously provocative productions.

For its annual opera production at the Granada Theatre, Santa Barbara's Music Academy of the West stuck with the Rossini chestnut "The Barber of Seville." Sunday afternoon, at the second of two performances, the academy, which includes a famed vocal program run by the great mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, played it very, very safe.

This proved a “Barber” with an aesthetic that would have ruffled no feathers during the Eisenhower years. A parochial production enticed bright young talent into making opera hopelessly irrelevant to its generation, to anything whatsoever related to real life or what is going on in any of the opera houses that matter. Still, the Granada was full and the audience appeared to be enjoying itself very much.

Continue reading »

LACMA's film series: It's Ian Birnie's swan song

July 2, 2011 |  7:30 am

Earrings Ian Birnie, who for the last 14 years was director of LACMA's film department, is now out of a job. For his farewell program, "Celebrating Classic Cinema: Curator and Audience Favorites," Birnie has picked an eclectic collection of movies and has written personal program notes.

In a commentary in Sunday Calendar, Times movie critic Kenneth Turan writes that Birnie's exit was "orchestrated in a breathtaking piece of gamesmanship by LACMA Director Michael Govan, as adroit a cultural politician as this city has."

Birnie's last hurrah, 17 movies that begin screening on Friday, includes some of Turan's favorite movies, including  Max Ophüls' "The Earrings of Madame de...," Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be or Not to Be," and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "I Know Where I'm Going."

Click here to read Turan's full Critic's Notebook.


LACMA film program to be headed by Elvis Mitchell

Big changes in store for LACMA's film program

LACMA's weekend film series gets extended -- but 'still in jeopardy'

Photo: Danielle Darrieux in Max Ophuls' "The Earrings of Madame de... " Credit: Los Angeles County Museum of Art



Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.