After more than three years of bureaucratic roadblocks, false starts and some old-fashioned city rivalry, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has finally found a home in Los Angeles.
The long-awaited museum will house the art and movie memorabilia collection of director George Lucas. It includes "Star Wars" related pieces, but also the work of artists such as Norman Rockwell and Edgar Degas.
Lucas first set his sights on San Francisco's Presidio park as the location for the museum, but a failed negotiation over the land led to a new proposal for Chicago. This second iteration of the museum was eventually dropped after much debate and controversy over the use of lakefront property.
After a final battle between Los Angeles and San Francisco — where a new design was later proposed in a different location, Treasure Island — the Lucas Museum announced this week that it will finally land in L.A.'s Exposition Park. Construction is set to begin before the end of the year, but won't be completed until 2021.
Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne has covered the Lucas Museum's long search for a home since L.A. first became a contender last year. He joined the Frame's John Horn to discuss the project's history and what this means for the city.
On the art collection itself:
[George Lucas has] been collecting art for many years: movie memorabilia — costume design, storyboards, things connected to his own films, the "Star Wars" series, but also "The Ten Commandments," famous films in Hollywood history. At the same time, he's been collecting fine art — some Impressionist work, but it's particularly strong in figurative American art. Norman Rockwell is really the core of that side of the collection. And he's brought these two halves of his collection together and has proposed building this museum, which is now called the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. He uses that term, "narrative art," to bring together these two halves and explains it as a collection that's about art that tells a story. I think it's a somewhat awkward attempt to marry the two halves of this collection.
On the evolution of the museum's design:
[Lucas] moved from this very traditional, classically-minded proposal for San Francisco to a very futuristic, streamlined, kind of aerodynamic architecture for Chicago. After he ran into problems in Chicago, he moved back to California [and] he stuck with Ma Yansong, this Chinese architect [he'd hired for the Chicago plan], but he split the proposal. He had one proposal from Ma Yansong back in San Francisco, and another in Exposition Park in Los Angeles, just south of USC and the Coliseum.
On the possibility of attracting a "Star Wars"-loving crowd:
There is some talk that they're going to open it on May 4 [of 2021], which has now become the kind of unofficial "Star Wars" holiday. If that's true, that suggests they're aiming very squarely at that demographic, and I think that's the reason it's been so attractive to politicians like Eric Garcetti and the mayors of San Francisco and Chicago. Just because of the "Star Wars" collection alone, this is a museum that seems destined to draw huge tourist crowds from day one.
On designing a museum for both light sabers and Degas:
The design as it stands now seems to complement the "Star Wars" half of the collection much more than, let's say, the Normal Rockwell half. We haven't really seen layouts of the galleries yet and that will be one of the tests architecturally: How do you produce a museum that works for the light saber half of the collection and also has galleries for a much more traditionally-minded collection? With Degas, with Norman Rockwell, with N.C. Wyeth, and so forth. That's going to be a tough juggling act for the architect and the director of this museum.