Michael Govan’s Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art director has, during his 10-year tenure, propelled the museum to one of the city’s foremost arts institutions

Image: Patrick Fraser

Perfect Saturdays begin at Santa Monica Airport, where I’ll have coffee at the nearby Spitfire Grill before flying my single-engine 1979 Beechcraft Bonanza to Malibu or Point Dume. Flying is my passion; I adore the emptiness of the sky.

If my wife Katherine, our daughter Gabrielle [11] and my daughter Ariana [21], who’s a student at UCLA and also a pilot, are with me, we’ll head to Catalina; the raw nature of the island and roaming buffalo make you feel very far away. We’ll rent a cabana at the cool Descanso Beach Club and have a bison burger at the mountain-top DC-3 Gifts & Grill.

In the afternoon I might stop by LACMA to give a private tour and see how people are interacting with the art, and then we’ll visit the light-filled James Turrell-designed Skyspace at the Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery, or Regen Projects to see work by its excellent stable of contemporary artists, such as Catherine Opie, Toba Khedoori and Doug Aitken.

If my kids have their say, we’ll then head to The Original Farmers Market – it’s home to over 100 gourmet vendors. Ariana loves Light My Fire for the incredible selection of hot sauces and we all like Loteria Grill’s spicy pork tacos. We’ll also stop at Huntington Meats to buy New York strip steaks for Sunday night’s supper.

The whole family loves books, so we might visit Taschen to look at new art publications, and Barnes & Noble for its massive children’s section. If there’s time we’ll go to Griffith Observatory – one of the most exotic-looking buildings in LA – to hear director Ed Krupp talk about astronomy and the history of the cosmos.


Saturday evenings often involve an art opening, followed by dinner of oysters and steak frites at République in Hancock Park, or hamburgers and martinis at the lively Tower Bar. Dimitri is the ultimate maître d’ and always has a table for us.

On Sundays we’ll read the online papers in bed and look at Flipboard, my favourite app, with content from The New Yorker to Arts & Letters Daily. If Peter Zumthor – our architect on the new LACMA project – is in town, I’ll take him to the 1920s Spanish-style Los Angeles Tennis Club for a mid-morning game. When he signed on for this project it was one of his prerequisites. He plays every day and I’m just pleased I can hold my own.

If Gabrielle gets to choose our lunch spot it’ll be In-N-Out Burger – for the French fries – and we’ll usually stop at the smaller Larchmont Farmers Market to get some greens for dinner. The afternoons are often the only quiet time I have to write essays; currently I’m working on one for our upcoming Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time show.

Sunday evenings we can always count on Ariana popping by for laundry night, and friends like Julian Sands or Jorge Pardo joining us for dinner. Meals usually end with one of Katherine’s delicious homemade desserts – apple crumble perhaps, or meringues with caramel.

On the rare Sunday night that we don’t cook at home, we’ll meet Eva and Michael Chow for a Korean barbecue at Chosun Galbee in Koreatown; nearly all the signs in this part of town are in Korean so the experience is totally transporting. We also love Chinatown’s Pok Pok for its great Thai food and cool 1970s tunes.


The end of the day is about catching up on the latest films and TV shows so I don’t sound like an idiot – in LA this is “required reading”. Right now we’re enjoying House of Cards and Amazon’s transgender series Transparent. Bedtime is late – 1.30am or so – as this is the only time I have before all hell breaks loose on Monday morning.