After years of frustration, litigation, protests, lobbying and false starts in San Francisco and Chicago, it was announced a little over a week ago that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art would be built—knock wood—in Los Angeles. Entirely funded by Star Wars creator George Lucas (to the tune of over a billion dollars for construction, maintenance, a $400million endowment, and a collection of over 10,000 pieces-and-growing) it’s hard to understand why politicians and planners weren’t stumbling all over each other with attempts to lure the project that somebody else was paying for to their cities or states. Go figure.
As happened in SF and Chicago, not everyone is a supporter of a museum devoted to—yech, feh, patooie—lowly “illustration” or “art” created as a component of films and television, but barring delays or community challenges, groundbreaking for the 275,000 square foot museum (designed by Ma Yansong) is scheduled for late 2017. A targeted opening is for 2021. They have ambitious plans that will trace the full history of narrative art while showcasing permanent exhibits devoted to:
- Children’s Art
- Comic Art
- Digital Art
- Cinematic Design
- Set Design
- Prop Design
- Costume & Fashion Design
- Makeup & Creature Design
- Visual Effects
Don Bacigalupi, formerly head of Crystal Bridges, will serve as the founding president of the Lucas Museum. As stated in the organization’s statement, “The Lucas Museum will be a barrier free museum where artificial divisions between ‘high’ art and ‘popular’ art are absent, allowing you to explore a wide array of compelling visual storytelling.” This interview with Lucas’ wife and business partner Melody Hobson provides a lot of insight into the museum’s intentions and goals.
There are, of course, other wonderful museums around the country that are focused on narrative/illustration, but I think we can all be—should be—excited at the prospect of a showcase with this scope and passion. George Lucas has loved and collected illustration and comic art for decades and, rather than a “vanity project” as some critics unfairly sneer, I think this museum is a further expression of that love. I know that I can’t wait to see it.
But until the last hurdles are overcome, until the museum is built and the doors opened, we can get a glimpse of some of the pieces in the collection below while we’re waiting. (And much more can be viewed on the museum’s official website.)