You can tell a lot about a museum by where its director lives. For instance, Ann Philbin, who has spent the last 20 years turning the Hammer into a bastion of progressive art, occupies a predictably gorgeous midcentury architectural gem in Beverly Hills. The Museum of Contemporary Art’s more iconoclastic Klaus Biesenbach, on the other hand, has set up housekeeping in a massive converted downtown-adjacent warehouse—a space he shares with his pet duck, Cupcakes—decorated with palm trees, midnight-blue walls, and a lone bed as its main piece of furniture. But what about Michael Govan, the controversial LACMA director who’s demolishing the museum’s Miracle Mile campus to make room for the new $750 million David Geffen Galleries? At the moment, he’s camped out in a trailer park in Malibu.
Govan, 58, has been doing a lot of house-hopping lately. Until last fall, he’d been living in a 1926 Tudor-style, five-bedroom, 5,800-square-foot mansion situated “on the best street in Hancock Park,” as a recent Trulia listing described the property. But in November, the owner of the house—Museum Associates, the nonprofit providing LACMA with financial backing—sold the manse for $6.7 million. At that point, Govan, who’d been living in the home for free since he started as director in 2006, downsized to a more modest (but still rent-free) $2.2 million, 3,300-square-foot Spanish Revival in Mid-Wilshire owned by the museum itself. But after occupying that house for less than four months, Govan self-evicted and had the museum put it up for sale in order to refill LACMA’s coffers after it took a financial beating during the pandemic. (The museum received a $6.7 million PPP loan last year, which helped save all but ten jobs, but it’s still bleeding millions.) “We’ve been closed for so long and losing so much money on the operating side, selling the house was the one thing we could do really quickly and redirect the money into our reserves,” explains Govan.
It’s unclear where Govan will be settling down next—the makeshift Malibu digs are obviously temporary housing—but he doesn’t seem in any rush to deploy the Million Dollar Listing agents…yet.
“It’s cool,” he says of trading Hancock Park for the trailer park. “I’m very happy about it.”
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