in other words

#63 Says Who? Cultural Value and Validation in the 21st Century: Live From Aspen

By Charlotte Burns
Guests Michael Govan, Roberta Smith, Derrick Adams and host Charlotte Burns at the Aspen Ideas Festival Chris Council and Emily Chaplin

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Recorded live at the Aspen Ideas Festival, speakers Roberta Smith (The New York Times co-chief art critic), Michael Govan (CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and Derrick Adams (a visual and performance artist) join host Charlotte Burns for a panel produced in collaboration with Sotheby’s and the Aspen Ideas Festival, which took place in Colorado in late June. They discuss how society forms a consensus about which objects and stories we save, and which we discard—and, ultimately, who controls culture today.

For more, tune in today.


Roberta Smith

co-chief art critic, The New York Times

Roberta Smith is the co-chief art critic of the The New York Times. She joined the Times in 1991 after writing for the paper as a freelancer from 1986-1991. Smith reviews museum exhibitions, art fairs and gallery shows both locally and across the globe.

Smith began writing criticism in 1972 and views her primary role as helping people see art. In addition to reviewing shows and fairs, Smith has also written on the need for free admission to museums, deaccesioning and the Google Art Project.

Smith received the College Art Association’s Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism in 2003. She was born in New York City and raised in Kansas and is a graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa.

Michael Govan

CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Michael Govan joined the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director in 2006. Since his arrival, Govan has transformed not only the museum’s collection but also the way it is experienced by its audience. Currently the museum is in the midst of replacing four aging museum buildings with a single new state of the art gallery building designed by architect Peter Zumthor.

Govan has facilitated new creative interactions between contemporary artists and architects and the museum’s historic collections, commissioning exhibition and gallery designs in collaboration with artists John Baldessari, Jorge Pardo and Franz West, and architects Frank O. Gehry, Fred Fisher, Michael Maltzan, Amy Murphy, Kulapat Yantrasast, and others.

Under Govan’s leadership, Lacma has begun a program to place its collections and exhibitions in underserved communities in Los Angeles County, the first adjacent to MacArthur Park in collaboration with Charles White Elementary School. Today, Lacma operates the largest in-school art education program of any art museum in the US.

From 1994 to 2006, Govan was president and director of Dia Art Foundation where he spearheaded the creation of the critically acclaimed Dia:Beacon in New York’s Hudson Valley. Prior to Dia Art Foundation, Govan served for six years as deputy director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Derrick Adams


Derrick Adams is a multidisciplinary New York-based artist working in performance, video, sound and 2D and 3D realms. His practice focuses on the fragmentation and manipulation of structure and surface, exploring self image and forward projection.

A recipient of a 2009 Louis Comfort Tiffany Award and a 2014 S.J. Weiler Award, Adams received his MFA from Columbia . University, BFA from Pratt Institute and is a Skowhegan and Marie Walsh Sharpe alum.

His exhibition and performance highlights include: Greater New York ’05, MoMA PS1: Open House: Working in Brooklyn ’04, Brooklyn Museum of Art; PERFORMA ’05, ’13, ’15; Radical Presence & The Shadows Took Shape, Studio Museum in Harlem; The Channel, Brooklyn Academy of Music; and is in the permanent collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Birmingham Museum of Art.

His work can be seen in New York at Tilton Gallery; Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Gallerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris; and Vigo Gallery, London.

Charlotte Burns

executive editor of In Other Words

Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.

Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.

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