Sunday, October 17, 2021

A New Museum in a Town of Many

I read quite a number of art blogs and informational sites. Some of the stories I see intrigue me enough to look further. One I read recently about George Lucas (1944-) qualifies.

George Lucas is probably best known for creating the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. He also formed the company Lucasfilm and spinoffs from that. He owned 100% of the former which he sold in 2012 to the Walt Disney Company transferring his $4 billion proceeds to a private philanthropy that will focus on education issues in the United States. Never fear for his remaining fortune, Forbes Magazine estimated his net worth at $7 Billion.

Now Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO & President at Ariel Investments, areready to branch out into another world, that of museums.

They are in the process of building and opening “The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art”. Narrative Art? That is what I dealt in my entire life, European art of the 14th through the 19thcenturies was always narrative, starting with the religious, the mythical and historical events, all narrative art. But Lucas can add other dimensions photography, the first photograph circa 1826 and more importantly the moving picture, 1895, being a huge jump in the development of narrative art.

George Lucas & Mellody Hobson

By my count there are 8 art museums in Los Angeles including the Los Angeles County Museum, The Huntington and The Getty. Earlier attempts by Lucas and his wife to build their museum in San Francisco and then Chicago were thwarted by politics and neighborhood objections. L.A. seemed to be most hospitable to the idea. Also, influenced by Hobson, Lucas was attracted to the idea of having his new institution being used as a teaching tool for young people and there are plenty of schools and universities in L.A. to draw from.

The flowing futuristic museum building by architect Ma Yansong will feature new public green space, cinematic theaters, a research library, and space for onsite education. It was supposed to be completed this year but due to Covid issues will only be finished later next year and plans to open in 2023.

Rendering of the Lucas Museum

Just building a collection can be complicated but multiply that by a thousand if you wish to establish a museum. In 2014 Lucas wisely hired an advisor, Don Bacigalupi who was a curator specializing in contemporary art and popular culture and Director at several museums including Toledo Museum of Art before joining The Crystal Bridges Museum which he helped Alice Walton develop.

You might have thought that the Lucas Museum would deal with just film and photography. What is not well known is that Lucas also has a serious art collection by artists such as Norman Rockwell, Thomas Hart Benton, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Maxfield Parrish, Kerry James Marshall and Frida Kahlo. While the bulk of the collection includes 20thand 21st century art, there are old masters as well. Here are three examples of Narrative Art from the collection: (3 Images, Captions Below)

Norman Rockwell (American 1894-1978)
“Shuffleton's Barbershop”, 1950

William Hogarth (British 1697-1764)
from his series “The Rake’s Progress”, 1732-34

Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian 1593-1653) and associate,
The Triumph of Galatea, about 1649

His new museum with its 80,000 square feet of exhibition space will include paintings, sculpture, photography, movies, illustration, comic art and “Star Wars” ephemera. When Lucas said, “Why I have 15,000 works of art is because I can’t let go of them” he was being modest because including the other material, his collection now numbers around 100,000 works.

“The focus of the Museum is to open up people's imaginations and inspire them to dream beyond what is considered possible,” Lucas explains, “Narrative art and storytelling stirs our emotions, shapes our aspirations as a society, and is the glue that binds us together around our common beliefs.” Appointed in 2020 as Director and CEO of the Museum, Sandra Jackson-Dumont comes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she was Chairman of Education and Public Programs Department. She faces the challenge of realizing a museum with the Lucas concept,-- to dream beyond what is considered possible.