Connect with us

Entertainment

Michael Govan: Kingpin of L.A.'s global arts ambition

Published

on

Michael Govan: Kingpin of L.A.'s global arts ambition

Michael Govan, photographed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles on Nov. 14.

When Michael Govan joined the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as director in 2006, he had a vision: to create an arts and culture town square, in sprawling and diffuse Los Angeles, along museum-heavy Miracle Mile. He had a 340-ton boulder hauled from a Riverside-area quarry to the Wilshire Boulevard museum in 2012 for a monumental sculpture, by Michael Heizer, to mark his LACMA campus. The artwork, “Levitated Mass,” is a beacon of sorts, visible from the street.

L.A. Influential logo

Discover the changemakers who are shaping every cultural corner of Los Angeles. This week we bring you The Civic Center, a collection that includes a groundbreaking mayor, a housing advocate, a giver of food and others who are the backbone of Los Angeles. Come back each Sunday for another installment.

Advertisement

A specialized “transporter,” nearly three freeway lanes wide, carried the two-story-high boulder, which was shrink-wrapped and illuminated with string lights, very slowly over 11 nights — it traveled 5 miles per hour, through four counties and 22 cities, not unlike an evolving, mobile performance art piece. It drew crowds into the hundreds, with spectators wandering onto their porches or front lawns, in their pajamas in the middle of the night, as the spectacle inched toward the museum.

It was equally a feat of transportation engineering and a logistical nightmare (traffic lights and power lines were reconfigured). But the project drew global marketing for the museum, with international TV crews covering it. And it was a harbinger of things to come: Change was on the horizon at LACMA. And, like Govan’s monolith, it was going to be big.

‘Michael has been tenacious in reaching the goal he set of reimagining what LACMA will be.’

— Christine Anagnos, executive director of the Assn. of Art Museum Directors

Advertisement

Govan — famously camera-ready, with a slender frame and seemingly elastic smile — has since cemented himself as one of the city’s most influential, if not divisive, arts leaders. LACMA’s $750-million new building — now about 80% complete and targeting a late 2024 completion — is one of the highest-profile new museum projects globally. And it’s rising amid a Los Angeles museum boom and commercial gallery expansion; the city now hosts one of the most active art scenes in the world. And LACMA is at the center of that activity.

But Govan’s new museum building has also been a lightning rod for controversy. The cost — $125 million of which is coming from Los Angeles County taxpayers — has been an especially heated issue. Govan insists the project’s price tag has not risen despite breaking ground during the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with subsequent labor challenges and supply-chain issues, problems that slowed other museum construction projects such as the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Not to mention inflation.

Michael Govan

LACMA holds that construction costs were contractually “locked in” as of August 2020 and that additional costs are being covered by a contingency budget, explaining why, the museum said, the overall cost hasn’t risen.

A project of this magnitude is “very rare because of its scope and its ambition,” said Christine Anagnos, executive director of the New York-based Assn. of Art Museum Directors. “You don’t see a lot of museum buildings come up from scratch — it shows real dedication to the city. Michael has been tenacious in reaching the goal he set of reimagining what LACMA will be.”

To say that there are varying opinions about Govan’s vision for what LACMA “will be,” however, is an understatement.

Advertisement

Architectural preservationists still mourn that Govan razed four longtime LACMA buildings to make way for the Peter Zumthor-designed David Geffen Galleries: William L. Pereira’s 1965 Leo S. Bing Center, his 1960 Hammer and Ahmanson buildings and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates’ 1980s Art of the Americas building. And the new building’s design — an amorphous-looking, raised, single-story exhibition hall straddling Wilshire — has been hotly debated. Some see the modernist building as innovative from a design front while others liken it to a freeway overpass. But at the heart of the controversy lies the fact that the new building will be smaller, featuring a total of 110,000 square feet of gallery space instead of the combined, roughly 120,000 square feet of the four demolished buildings. Times critic Christopher Knight dubbed it “The Incredible Shrinking Museum.”

‘To say that there are varying opinions about Govan’s vision for what LACMA “will be” … is an understatement.’

Govan’s vision for the new LACMA — a nonhierarchical, decentralized “21st century museum” that is flexible and accessible to everyone — is an honorable one. Some art world insiders have called him “visionary” and “ahead of his time.” But others fear the new building will be the downfall of the largest art museum in the West. LACMA’s encyclopedic collection has, for more than 60 years, presented global art history across thousands of years that schoolchildren, say, could find easily and visit regularly; the new LACMA will feature art from the museum’s permanent collections in rotating, cross-departmental special exhibitions.

The Ahmanson Foundation, LACMA’s largest donor of European Old Master paintings and sculptures, so disagreed with Govan’s reformatting plans, which don’t include permanent displays of signature works, that it ended its five-decade partnership with the museum in 2020.

“We all know the ramifications of this,” said architecture writer and longtime LACMA critic Greg Goldin. “We’re never gonna see the great majority of art in the museum’s encyclopedic collection. Which has meaning. It has meaning because it’s a repository of every aspect of global culture. And how you approach that, curatorially, is profoundly impacted by what the building is capable of and if the building is large enough to dig into those collections. But the new building, it’s a museum in storage, and will remain permanently in storage — and with enormous debt.”

Advertisement

“It’s hard, if not impossible, to see this new project as a win,” Rob Hollman, executive director of the advocacy group Save LACMA, adds, referring to the museum’s $619 million in debt and about $128 million in other liabilities — a total of about $747 million, according to its most recent 990 tax filing.

Others vehemently disagree.

Stephan Jost, director of the Art Gallery of Ontario — which broke ground in May on a new, $73-million modern and contemporary art wing — calls Govan’s approach to the new LACMA building “genius.”

“He’s hired an architect whose buildings exude permanence. They’re elemental, huge solid blocks of granite. They feel like they’ll be around in 1,000 years — in a city that’s known for tearing things down,” Jost said. “And the nonhierarchical structure — that nothing is fixed, it’s all flexible — means L.A. County will be the most responsive to art. There’s no bias, no white supremacy built in. L.A. County will be in sync with the people of today. No one’s going to remember the budget in 10 years!”

Govan has spoken of satellite locations to feature additional art from the collections and to widen the museum’s geographic reach, including in South Los Angeles. And LACMA has forged community partnerships throughout L.A. County to display art from its collections, such as at Charles White Elementary School. But no dedicated satellite locations have materialized yet. The museum said that one, at South L.A.’s Magic Johnson Park, in collaboration with L.A. County, is in the “early stages of planning.”

Advertisement

Govan, 60, came to LACMA from New York’s Dia Art Foundation, where he served as director from 1994 to 2006; before that he spent six years as deputy director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. But the new LACMA building will be his legacy — in Los Angeles and in the art world. As such, Govan has ensured that LACMA has grown, in many ways, under his leadership.

Govan’s vision for the new LACMA — a nonhierarchical, decentralized ‘21st century museum’ that is flexible and accessible to everyone — is an honorable one.

Even as LACMA’s overall exhibition space shrinks with the new Zumthor building, the museum’s campus has expanded — and its visitorship has risen — during Govan’s tenure. He debuted the Broad Contemporary Art Museum in 2008 (planned before his arrival) and spearheaded the debut of the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion for temporary exhibitions in 2010. In addition to “Levitated Mass,” Govan commissioned several large-scale works for the museum’s campus, including Chris Burden’s now-iconic “Urban Light” (2008), Barbara Kruger’s “Untitled (Shafted)” (2008) and Robert Irwin’s “Primal Palm Garden” (2010).

During Govan’s tenure, LACMA has grown its permanent collection too, through donations and purchases, by more than 44,000 works. And annual attendance has nearly doubled from about 600,000 to an average of more than 1 million.

Govan is also a savvy, charismatic fundraiser. In August 2023, the museum announced that it had surpassed its $750-million capital campaign goal for the new building — a chunk of those funds acquired during the uncertain times of the pandemic. The campaign now stands at more than $779 million. Govan has also expanded the museum board by 14 members since 2020, bringing in $353 million in board contributions to date.

Advertisement

“He’s going to get this done,” said art world observer Paul Schimmel, formerly chief curator of L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art. “And it will put not just him, but Los Angeles on the map. Whether some people like the building or not.”

Govan’s new museum, a county museum, will belong to the public. It will change the face of Los Angeles. For better or worse? That remains to be seen. By the end of this year, we might have a clearer idea.

More from L.A. Influential

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Movie Reviews

‘Frankie Freako’ Is a Fun Ode to ’90s Puppet Mayhem Movies [Fantasia Review]

Published

on

‘Frankie Freako’ Is a Fun Ode to ’90s Puppet Mayhem Movies [Fantasia Review]

Seeing isn’t always believing in The Chapel, the latest film from Piggy writer/director Carlota Pereda. Written by Pereda, as well as Albert Bertran Bas and Carmelo Viera, The Chapel is a supernatural drama about intergenerational trauma between mothers and their daughters.

The film opens in 1631 in a small Spanish town that is besieged by the Black Plague. Men in plague masks gather up sick individuals to lock them in the titular chapel to preserve the health of the community and, as the crowd watches, a young, infected Uxoa (Alba Hernández) is separated from her mother, who refuses to help.

The moment of familial discomfort is upended, however, when a member of the crowd raises a smartphone to shoot video of the event, shattering the authenticity of the moment. It turns out what we’re seeing is a historical reenactment: these are actors who are playing a part in an annual five day festival. Once a year the haunted church is opened up and the town becomes a debauchery-laden tourist destination.

A similar instance of visual questioning occurs only a few moments later when characters walk through town and arrive at a painted facade two-stories tall that mimics the real street behind it.

Because these moments are so close together – and occur so early in the film – it is clear that it’s a larger part of Pereda, Bas and Viera’s subtle agenda. The Chapel is clearly interested in exploring notions of life after death, spiritualism, and belief, but the screenwriters also seemingly want the audience to evaluate what we’re seeing and what constitutes truth.

Advertisement

The heroine of the film is young eight year old Emma (Maia Zaitegi), an aspiring medium who is bullied at school because it’s a well known fact that her mother (Loreto Mauleón) is dying of cancer. Although the woman is effectively in hospice, Emma can’t bear to be separated from her mother, so instead of being sent away to relatives or into foster care, Emma is regularly babysat by well-intentioned neighbors, Edurne (Elena Irureta) and Asier (Jon Olivares).

The kindly adults are no match for Emma’s strong will and her tendency to sneak out, however, so her de facto surrogate parent becomes police officer Jon Elorza (Josean Bengoetxea). He’s the one who typically finds Emma in the middle of the night, unaccompanied, and performing spells to try and speak with the spirit of Uxoa, who haunts the chapel.

The plot kicks in when Ivana Peralta (Nagore Aranburu), the old “witch” Emma was studying under, dies of natural causes on the eve of the festival. Concerned that if her mother dies during the five days, her spirit will be imprisoned inside the religious site, Emma befriends the witch’s daughter, Carol (Belén Rueda) who arrives in town to settle the estate and manage the funeral.

Rueda is eminently watchable as the scowling disbeliever with a tortured backstory. Carol makes a living as a fraudster mystic, she actively tells Emma she hates children, and she stalks through town in her mother’s fur coat like a fury. She also wears her history, quite literally, on her face: the entire left side is badly burned, a detail The Chapel mines for a narrative reveal in the last act.

Advertisement

The skeptical adult/precocious child partnership isn’t new, but it works exceptionally well here because both actors are great. Zaitegi is especially revelatory: the rare child actor who negotiates the fine line between cloying, annoying, and dangerously mature for their age. It’s the centerpiece performance of the film and it only works because Emma is inherently worth rooting for, even when she repeatedly sneaks out after dark, engages in risky spiritualist activities, and actively courts the attention of violent ghosts.

Alas the film loses its way roughly halfway through. While The Chapel makes a clear throughline between Uxoa, Carol, and Emma’s “abandonment” by their respective mothers, when it comes time to confront the literal ghosts of their past, there’s nothing else to explore. The climax is particularly muddled, as the aforementioned “question what you see” element comes roaring back in a poorly shot sequence featuring a fiery pyre. 

It’s even more disappointing considering the spectacle that Pereda creates only moments before: a mountain of mutilated plague bodies piled on top of each other. This is easily the most haunting visual in the entire film, but it stands out in stark contrast to earlier unconvincing CGI on the Plague Mask ghost that regularly attacks Emma.

Alas, it is the horror elements where The Chapel falls down. There’s more mood and tension in a scene when Carol stumbles drunk through the town in the middle of night than most of the overly familiar monster attack sequences. 

The film works best when it is investigating the nature of female relationships between Emma, her mother, and Carol or when it explores Emma’s inability to process her mother’s impending death (fans of J.A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls will find this to be a suitable companion piece). 

Advertisement

As a female-centric drama with genre-adjacent tones, this is a strong calling card for Pereda’s talent. As a horror film, though? The Chapel is muddled.

3 skulls out of 5

The Chapel made its North American debut at the Fantasia International Film Festival.

Continue Reading

Entertainment

'America's Got Talent' breaks an unlikely underwear world record on final audition night

Published

on

'America's Got Talent' breaks an unlikely underwear world record on final audition night

We see London, we see France, we see — the “America’s Got Talent” audience’s underpants?

“AGT” broke a Guinness World Record in the episode that aired Tuesday night: the record for the most people wearing underwear on their heads for at least one minute.

Nicolas “Nick” Manning, a contestant from Australia, came on “AGT” initially intending to break the record for the most pairs of underwear pulled on, one pair at a time, in 30 seconds.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to be the best in the world at something,” Manning told the crowd.

The current record is 23 pairs in 30 seconds, which Manning set last July. In his attempt to beat his own record, he planned for the 24th to be a golden pair of undies.

Advertisement

“So we are going for the gold in the year of the Olympics,” celebrity judge Howie Mandel said.

The crowd cheered him on in his attempt, but Manning ultimately fell short of a new record by two pairs. But he didn’t end the night there; he wanted to attempt to break another world record, one that would include the audience, judges and stage crew.

“There is a record for most people gathered in one place wearing underwear on their heads,” Manning told the crowd. The record was 355 participants.

The underwear had to be donned for a full minute, with a Guinness judge there to supervise. So all at once, the audience and judges, plus host Terry Crews, pulled out white underwear and put it on their heads. Crews even led the crowd in a chant to make judge Simon Cowell put underwear on his head as well. (He reluctantly obliged.)

More than 1,200 people participated. The room erupted in cheers upon hearing the total, but audience members soon had their underpants in a twist over the judges’ reactions to Manning’s audition.

Advertisement

“I understand that a lot of people are very fascinated about those records. I for some reason, don’t really care about seeing them happen, so I didn’t love it,” judge Sofia Vergara said.

“Well, he failed on the first one, succeeded on the second one,” Cowell said. “But it didn’t feel that it was very difficult to break that record, if I’m being honest.”

So it was a “no” from all four judges, including Heidi Klum, and Manning failed to advance in the competition. But he had great support from the crowd as he exited the stage.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movie Reviews

DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE Review

Published

on

DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE Review
(PaPa, C, B, H, LLL, VVV, SS, N, A, DD, M):

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:

Strong pagan, slightly mixed, irreverent, often lawless worldview, but the movie’s premise has a solid redemptive, moral aspect to it where the main character wants to make a difference, save his friends, be a hero, and defeat two power-mad villains, and sacrifice ultimately solves the movie’s plot problem, and this is overtly referred to in the dialogue, plus the movie takes place in a humanist multiverse, though the movie appears to acknowledge the monotheistic idea that there are ultimate values that transcend the individual multiverses (thus, for example, Deadpool truly does want to be the kind of hero that his girlfriend wants him to be);

Foul Language:

At least 139 obscenities (including many “f” and “s” words), one possible Jesus profanity, seven GD profanities, and 13 light profanities;

Advertisement

Violence:

Lots of extreme and even bloody and well as strong violence includes Wolverine gets really mad at Deadpool two or three times, and they fight and try to kill each other even though the bodies of both men have regenerative power, lots of stabbing from Wolverine’s claws and Deadpool’s swords against each other and against bad guys, Deadpool decimates a bunch of Time Variance Authority soldiers with bones from a skeleton that have been infused with unbreakable adamantine steel, some explosions, a villain is able to infiltrate and control the minds of other people (this is depicted as if one of the villain’s hands is poking through the person’s head – there’s no blood, the action seems to be more metaphorical or taking place on a non-physical plane), explosions, gunfights, people are shot multiple times (for example, both Deadpool and another character shoot Wolverine multiple times in two plot twists), and-to-hand combat, villain with telekinetic powers kills one character by ripping his skin away, and people go flying during the movie’s many fight scenes;

Sex:

No sex scenes but the dialogue has a smattering of crude sex jokes, including a joke about a Boy Scout leader exposing himself;

Nudity:

Advertisement

Brief upper male nudity;

Alcohol Use:

Some alcohol use;

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:

No smoking, but an older side character enjoys cocaine, and there are jokes about her cocaine use, though it’s never depicted; and,

Advertisement

Miscellaneous Immorality:

Deadpool lies to Wolverine about an important matter, but Wolverine eventually forgives him and accepts Deadpool’s perspective on why his lie wasn’t really a lie.

In DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE, Deadpool wants to make a positive difference in the universe to regain the love of Vanessa and teams up with a reluctant Wolverine to stop a power-mad bureaucrat from the Time Variance Authority who’s trying to destroy Deadpool’s universe. DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE takes the crude language and extreme violence in the first two Deadpool movies to new depths of degradation, which ultimately overwhelms the movie’s redemptive heroic premise and dilutes the movie’s enjoyment level.

In the story, Wade Wilson aka wants to regain the love of his girlfriend, Vanessa, to become a true hero. However, The Avengers turn him down, so he stops using his Deadpool identity altogether and just enjoys being with his friends, including Vanessa. He still wants to get back with her though, but she nixes the idea.

Two years later or so, a power-mad bureaucrat from the Time Variance Authority (TVA), calling himself Mr. Paradox, picks up Wade. Paradox thinks Wade has matured enough to be a hero. He wants Wade’s help for a special assignment. Wade is gung ho and gets Paradox to build him a new Deadpool suit. However, he rebels against Paradox when he discovers that Paradox is trying to destroy Wade’s universe, including Vanessa and his friends. Apparently, the death of Logan, aka Wolverine of the X-Men, in Wade’s universe has set off a chain of events that will lead to the universe’s destruction sometime in the future anyway. So, Paradox decides why wait for all that pain and misery to develop? Why not just destroy Wade’s universe now?

Advertisement

A fight occurs Paradox’s offices. Wearing his Deadpool suit, Wade manages to escape in one of the TVA’s multiverse time travel portals. Deadpool travels back to Wolverine’s burial place to revive him. Things don’t go according to plan, and Deadpool finds a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. He eventually figures a way around it, but only to find another obstacle. Wolverine is not interested in stopping Mr. Paradox, and certainly not to work with Deadpool, whom he loathes.

Even when Wolverine finally reluctantly agrees to help, he and Deadpool encounter the biggest obstacle of all, a new, even more powerful villain. This villain wants to destroy the whole multiverse except for one area.

Can Deadpool and Wolverine stop this new villain and Mr. Paradox too? Can Deadpool save his own universe? Will Deadpool stop his incessant talking?

Except for some exposition, the jokes and action in DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE don’t stop. The movie also has some surprising, funny cameos. However, the movie takes the crude language and extreme violence in the first two Deadpool movies to new levels, or depths.

For example, Wolverine gets really mad at Deadpool at least twice. They fight and try to kill each other, with Wolverine stabbing Deadpool repeatedly with his claws, and Deadpool stabbing Wolverine repeatedly with his samurai swords. As fans of the two characters know, the bodies of both men have regenerative powers, so these scenes seem to go on forever with no resolution. In another long scene, Deadpool slices and dices multiple TVA policemen. Also, in a third long scene, Deadpool and Wolverine wade through a horde of assailants together. The brutality of the violence is clearly too extreme.

Advertisement

The number of obscenities in DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE has also sunk to new “heights,” going well over 100 to about 140 or more. There’s also some strong lewd dialogue, including a joke about a Boy Scout leader exposing himself. Unlike the first DEADPOOL movie, however, this third movie has no explicit sex scenes or nudity.

Ultimately, the brutality of the violence and the amount of obscene language in DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE dilutes the enjoyment of the story. It also overwhelms the movie’s redemptive ending. Shock for shock’s sake is a flawed concept that ultimately turns off more people than it attracts.

Continue Reading

Trending