When a strange complex rises over Los Angeles in the coming years, the silvery structure will be neither moon nor space station but a US$1 billion (NZ$1.4b) museum devoted to storytelling art. In his dogged quest to construct the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, it seems filmmaker and Star Wars creator George Lucas has finally found a home.
The board of directors for the Museum of Narrative Art announced that construction will begin in L.A.'s Exposition Park by the end of 2017. Throughout the previous months, the board had entertained building the museum in either San Francisco or Los Angeles. The City of Angels emerged the victor on Tuesday.
For years, Lucas has attempted to find a city for the museum. Lucas and his wife will provide an investment of US$1b (NZ$1.4b), which they say will include art Lucas owns and a US$400 million (NZ$567m) endowment. And though the museum said it will not cost taxpayer money, the museum board struggled to find a place willing to receive the donation.
Several months after selling Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 - to the tune of US$4b (NZ$5.6b) - Lucas announced his next big project: a museum, which he first envisioned in San Francisco. There will be Star Wars memorabilia, of course, such as the prop mask worn by David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. But it will also house a mixture of art, Norman Rockwell paintings alongside Japanese manga, that might cause some high brows to furrow. The uniting theme will be, as the name suggested, narrative.
Narrative art, the museum's website explained, is no more than art that tells a story. Lucas, a prolific collector, will donate some 10,000 pieces. The art in his collection is as diverse as MAD magazine covers, a 520 B.C. Greek amphora depicting warriors in battle, R. Crumb illustrations, and paintings by N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish. In addition to Star Wars costumes, the museum has the option to display Wizard of Oz and Casablanca mementos from Lucas' collection, the AP reported.
But the proposed museum failed to gain traction in San Francisco. By 2014, Chicago seemed likely to become the future host city. The Lucas Cultural Arts Museum was to sit next to Lake Michigan, on land that previously housed a parking lot. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago city council embraced the project.
"No other museum like this exists in the world, making it a tremendous educational, cultural and job creation asset for all Chicagoans, as well as an unparalleled draw for international tourists," Emanuel said at the time, as The Washington Post reported.
Chicago, too, was not to be. The selection of this spot rankled Chicago advocacy group Friends of the Parks. The organisation contended that the lakeside proposal was illegal, as the city had promised to turn the parking lot into public green space. The Friends of the Parks sued to block the proposal.
In June 2016, Lucas issued a statement that could have come from the mouth of Lando Calrissian: This Chicago deal was getting worse all the time. "No one benefits from continuing their seemingly unending litigation to protect a parking lot," Lucas said. The museum board announced on Jun. 24 that, because of the Friends of the Parks delay, Chicago was no longer in consideration.
After withdrawing from Chicago, the museum team began a two-pronged approach. It rekindled discussions with San Francisco, and also began talks with Los Angeles. Both cities courted the museum aggressively. As Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles' mayor, told the Associated Press on January 3, "This is the largest civic gift in American history."
Los Angeles won out in the end. The museum believed the Exposition Park location would be more accessible; it is close to a public transit stop. The San Francisco proposal would have required visitors to traverse to an island in the San Francisco Bay via a bridge or ferry.
A museum spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that the installation should be fully operational by 2021.