Ge­orge Lu­cas sets sights on Ex­po­si­tion Park for mu­seum

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Deb­o­rah Vankin

For months, “Star Wars” cre­ator Ge­orge Lu­cas held the art world in sus­pense: Would he put his $1-bil­lion Mu­seum of Nar­ra­tive Art in Los An­ge­les or San Fran­cisco? On Tues­day came the an­swer. Lu­cas’ per­sonal col­lec­tion of fine and pop­u­lar art, in­clud­ing ephemera re­lated to his “Star Wars” fran­chise, will fill a fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing new mu­seum planned for L.A.’s Ex­po­si­tion Park that beat out a com­pet­ing de­sign for Trea­sure Is­land in San Fran­cisco Bay. The ri­valry had pit­ted the two cities in the com­pe­ti­tion not only for Lu­cas’ col­lec­tion and the tourism it will bring but also for the thou­sands of jobs that back­ers said the project will cre­ate.

Lu­cas has said he will fund the project to the tune of about $1 bil­lion, in­clud­ing build­ing costs, his art and an en­dow­ment of at least $400 mil­lion.

The Lu­cas Mu­seum fur­ther ex­pands the art mu­seum land­scape in greater L.A., which has be­come a global hot spot for art pro­duc­tion. The Broad mu­seum opened in late 2015 in down­town L.A., across the street from the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art. The for­mer Santa Mon­ica Mu­seum of Art will re­open in the Arts Dis­trict this fall, re­named the In­sti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary Art Los An­ge­les. Mean­while, the non­col­lect­ing Main Mu­seum made a soft de­but in down­town’s Old Bank Dis­trict in Oc­to­ber.

“It feels like this in­cred­i­ble gift has come home. I al­ways thought Los An­ge­les was the nat­u­ral place to spread the vi­sion of Ge­orge Lu­cas and Mel­lody Hob­son, to make art and cre­ativ­ity ac­ces­si­ble and in­spi­ra­tional to the next gen­er­a­tion,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said of the film­maker and his wife. “It’s

a nat­u­ral place to have this mu­seum in the cre­ative cap­i­tal of the world and in the ge­o­graphic cen­ter of the city. It’s a ban­ner day for L.A.”

Garcetti said the 275,000square-foot Lu­cas Mu­seum will lead to tens of thou­sands of jobs in con­struc­tion, and he es­ti­mated the num­ber of per­ma­nent jobs cre­ated by the mu­seum at more than 1,000 — “and that’s a low­ball es­ti­mate.”

“Peo­ple will visit from around the world to see the orig­i­nal Darth Vader mask and Nor­man Rock­well paint­ings,” he said.

En­ter­tain­ment and cul­tural lead­ers, in­clud­ing Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art Di­rec­tor Michael Go­van, Academy Mu­seum of Mo­tion Pic­tures leader Kerry Brougher and DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Jeffrey Katzen­berg, gath­ered be­fore the L.A. County Board of Su­per­vi­sors in Novem­ber to show their sup­port for Lu­cas’ project.

“This is a real tri­umph for the city of L.A., and this will be a trans­for­ma­tive op­por­tu­nity for L.A.,” Katzen­berg said Tues­day af­ter learn­ing of Lu­cas’ de­ci­sion. “First and fore­most for our res­i­dents, who are go­ing to have an out­stand­ing cul­tural, iconic new force here — the force will be with us — and I think for tourism, and for the con­tin­ued, ex­tra­or­di­nary trans­for­ma­tion of down­town Los An­ge­les, and for Ex­po­si­tion Park and the other mu­se­ums it will be join­ing.”

Lu­cas, 72, has spent years try­ing to erect a mu­seum for his art col­lec­tion, which con­sists of about 10,000 paint­ings and il­lus­tra­tions, in­clud­ing works by Rock­well, N.C. Wyeth and R. Crumb, along with Hol­ly­wood mem­o­ra­bilia from films such as “Star Wars” and “The Ten Com­mand­ments.” In 2009, he set his sights near his home turf in San Fran­cisco but faced com­mu­nity op­po­si­tion from the city’s Pre­sidio Trust about build­ing in the his­toric park. Lu­cas then aimed for Chicago, Hob­son’s home­town, but en­coun­tered re­sis­tance from Friends of the Parks about a down­town site along Lake Michi­gan.

The new­est pro­pos­als, both fea­tur­ing de­signs by Chi­nese ar­chi­tect Ma Yan­song, were aes­thet­i­cally sim­i­lar but seem­ingly op­po­site in other re­spects. One was a re­mote, four-acre site on a breezy is­land in San Fran­cisco Bay, beau­ti­ful but ac­ces­si­ble only by bridge and ferry; the other was a sev­e­nacre lo­ca­tion in pub­lic tran­sit-friendly, mu­seum-heavy Ex­po­si­tion Park near Lu­cas’ alma mater, USC.

Lu­cas de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle, but the mu­seum board’s an­nounce­ment said he chose L.A. largely be­cause Ex­po­si­tion Park po­si­tions the mu­seum to “have the great­est im­pact on the broader com­mu­nity, ful­fill­ing our goal of in­spir­ing, en­gag­ing and ed­u­cat­ing a broad and di­verse vis­i­tor­ship.”

Ex­po­si­tion Park could be­come the Cen­tral Park of L.A., Garcetti said, adding that Lu­cas has ex­pressed in­ter­est in help­ing to guide a master plan for the swiftly evolv­ing area, al­ready home to the Cal­i­for­nia Science Cen­ter, Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum of Los An­ge­les County and the Cal­i­for­nia African Amer­i­can Mu­seum. Plans for the new mu­seum, which will rise along Ver­mont Av­enue on land now cov­ered by park­ing lots, will in­clude un­der­ground park­ing.

“We have a new foot­ball sta­dium be­ing built, the Coli­seum be­ing re­done with more than $200 mil­lion in up­grades, and the science cen­ter is build­ing a whole new build­ing to per­ma­nently house the space shut­tle and its rock­ets,” Garcetti said, also not­ing the prox­im­ity to the Expo light rail line and bus lines. The Lu­cas Mu­seum, he said, “will be the jewel in the crown.”

The mu­seum board called Ex­po­si­tion Park “a mag­net for the re­gion and ac­ces­si­ble from all parts of the city.” It also cited the lo­ca­tion “sur­rounded by more than 100 el­e­men­tary and high schools, one of the coun­try's lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties as well as three other world-class mu­se­ums.”

“There’s an un­der­stand­ing of L.A.’s grow­ing cul­tural in­flu­ence and grow­ing and di­verse au­di­ences for mu­se­ums here,” LACMA’s Go­van said Tues­day. “We ended 2016 with over 1.5 mil­lion vis­i­tors.” He said the Lu­cas Mu­seum will present visual cul­ture from a dif­fer­ent point of view, one that “makes so much sense in a city known equally for art and for film.”

Phi­lan­thropist and Broad mu­seum founder Eli Broad called the Lu­cas Mu­seum “one of the most im­por­tant cul­tural and tourist ad­di­tions to our city in the last 25 years.”

“I spoke to both Ge­orge Lu­cas and Mel­lody per­son­ally about our great suc­cess at the Broad,” the phi­lan­thropist said. “We’ve had over 1 mil­lion vis­i­tors since we opened in 2015, and I’d ex­pect the at­ten­dance at the Lu­cas Mu­seum will be equal or even ex­ceed that.”

Art his­to­rian Don Baci­galupi, for­merly pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in Ben­tonville, Ark., will serve as found­ing pres­i­dent of the Lu­cas Mu­seum. He and Lu­cas still face the pos­si­bil­ity of the kind of com­mu­nity scru­tiny the project en­coun­tered in San Fran­cisco and Chicago, but of­fi­cials re­main op­ti­mistic. Ground­break­ing is planned be­fore year’s end, a spokesman said, with the open­ing tar­geted for 2021.

“We have ex­cit­ing work ahead,” Baci­galupi said.

Lu­cas Mu­seum of Nar­ra­tive Art

A REN­DER­ING shows pro­posed Lu­cas Mu­seum of Nar­ra­tive Art, with Coli­seum nearby. The new­comer would al­ter the lo­cal art mu­seum land­scape; L.A.’s mayor says it will bring a le­gion of con­struc­tion jobs.

Michael Ko­vac Getty Images

“STAR WARS” cre­ator Lu­cas has spent years try­ing to erect a mu­seum for his art col­lec­tion.

Lu­cas Mu­seum of Nar­ra­tive Art

THE MU­SEUM as en­vi­sioned by Chi­nese ar­chi­tect Ma Yan­song. Lu­cas chose L.A., the mu­seum’s board says, be­cause Ex­po­si­tion Park po­si­tions the in­sti­tu­tion to “have the great­est im­pact on the broader com­mu­nity.”

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