Thursday, April 18, 2013

Patronage in L.A. (Part 2 of 3): Can LACMA Spark a "Generational Changeover"? @ Zaidan Gallery

Given the mercurial nature of art support in L.A., how can patronage stabilize and develop into a culture of the long-term commitment? Many observers believe museum directors might play a key role in helping Los Angeles transition from a city of art supporters to a community of patrons.

An institution’s director sets the tone for its programming staff and also for its board of trustees, both delicate ecosystems. In today’s Los Angeles, almost everyone singles out LACMA director Michael Govan for reinvigorating the museum and creating a dynamic multi-generational board. Govan’s understanding of how to appeal to a broad audience has garnered him influential fans, from young Hollywood executives to Beverly Hills matrons.

The charismatic director took charge in 2006. It certainly helps that he and his wife — the fashion public relations executive Katherine Ross — are a glamorous couple, running in the rarefied social circles of socialites and movie stars. The appeal of belonging to an exclusive social group that comes with being on a museum board like LACMA’s is a key incentive for new patrons.

“I know for a fact that the LACMA board is comprised of people who have really bonded, and Michael is responsible for creating an atmosphere where that can happen,” says long-time art collector and Hammer Museum trustee Susan Bay Nimoy.

As head of one of the city’s largest institutions, Govan undoubtedly has access to a strong donor base. Still, it’s his dynamic vision for the museum — from orchestrating high-profile projects such as “Levitated Mass” and the Art + Film Gala to overseeing the museum’s brick-and-mortar expansion — that keeps patrons writing checks.

“Michael Govan is the most successful in terms of trying to capture and train a young generation of boards members and get them early,” Bruce Robertson, the acting director at UC-Santa Barbara’s art museum, acknowledges.
Robertson thinks that Govan’s stewardship of LACMA could have a larger impact on Los Angeles. “If that generational changeover is successful — and I think it will be — then L.A. institutions are in a good position,” he says. “This will mean that a culture of philanthropy will have been created, a generation will have been trained, and they’ll understand their role on boards and see the results of their work.”.... more