In the south of Los Angeles, an imposing building has stood for five years over the city. It stands just opposite the Natural History Museum, an essential tourist stopover, in the Parc des Expositions, where visitors can also see the space shuttle Endeavour. From 2025, the area’s big attraction promises to be the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.
The name of George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones who became a patron with his wife, the financier Mellody Hobson, gives meaning to the building. It is composed of a flattened sphere which is connected by a bridge to a huge oval. The building overlooks the University of Southern California where the american graffiti studied filmmaker. The museum grounds occupy almost four and a half hectares. And it looks like a spaceship landed in the middle of it.
The museum team is quick to deny the popular impression. “It’s the foliage of a tree,” said Sandra Jackson-Dumont, director and president of the institution, a few days ago to a group of journalists who visited the work, including EL PAÍS. Ma Yansong, the architect responsible for the design, is said to have been inspired by the tall trees in the fairgrounds. His office, MAD Architects, proposed a huge pavilion that leads to a space intended to unite the community, in a middle-class residential area where 70% of the inhabitants are black or Latino. To underline the botanical reference, the project provides for the planting of 200 trees throughout the territory.
This week, workers put in place more than 1,500 curved fiberglass panels that will give the building a futuristic look. They were specially made in Northern California by robots. 15% of the facade is also occupied by solar panels, which will help reduce the environmental impact of the center. Jackson-Dumont, who worked at the Met in New York for five years before coming to the West Coast, proudly says there’s not a single straight line inside the Lucas Museum.
The idea for the museum was born in 2014. That year, Lucas and Hobson launched a competition to design a center that would be located in Chicago, where Hobson has great power through the investment fund she chairs, Ariel , which has a budget of $16 billion. But a problem with the land forces the couple, who married in 2013, to look for a new location. They found it just yards from the Colosseum, which has hosted two Olympics and two Super Bowls.
After five years of construction and a $1 billion investment, the center has launched an aggressive public relations campaign to remind the public that the project has not failed with the pandemic. It was simply delayed once more. The opening date has been pushed back from 2022 to 2023 and now from 2023 to 2025. This week the team held press events and conferences in New York with members of the art world to create buzz . In addition to the founders, the institution’s board of trustees includes Henry Bienen, president emeritus of Northwestern University; sociologist Arne Duncan, who was education secretary in the Obama administration; Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA); Andrea Wishom, president of Skywalker Holdings, Lucas’ real estate company; and filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro.
The council recently revealed some of the works that have been added to the catalog. Among them is a painting by Robert Colescott, a subversive painter whose work is full of sarcasm and irreverence. The canvas, owned by Lucas and Hobson, shows a black George Washington crossing Delaware. All who appear in the painting are African American, a comment by Colescott on the absence of black people in United States historical landmarks.
The museum director believes that there will be no permanent collection once the museum opens. His idea, he confided while showing the advances in the exhibition spaces, is that the works be shot within the museum. Before their marriage, Lucas and Hobson were already art collectors. She was primarily interested in works by African American artists such as Norman Lewis and Kara Walker. Lucas’ forte was American art, graphic design, comics, and illustrations. After their union, they sought out pieces that interested them both, such as the canvases of 80s and 90s New York phenom Jean-Michel Basquiat and the photorealistic works of Chuck Close.
A space dedicated to narrative art can seem confusing. And it’s. The gallery’s treasures include objects as disparate as coins made 2,200 years ago in Egypt, mosaics from the Roman Empire, the post-war works of Normal Rockwell, African art, a replica of “Las Meninas” made 200 years after Velásquez by John The Singer Sargent, photojournalism by Dorothea Lange, a self-portrait by Frida Kahlo, a mural by Judith Baca, artistic creations by Ralph McQuarrie from Star Wars films and comics Marvel by Robert Crumb, star of the American underground cartoon.
“Our intention is to erase the boundaries between culture and popular art”, explains the director. The Museum will also have two exhibition halls with a capacity of 300 people. One end of the building will feature a library open to the public with the entire archive of Lucasfilm, the production company the filmmaker sold to Disney in 2012 for $4 billion. Lucas and Hobson also purchased the Separate Cinema Archive two years ago, which includes 37,000 items related to the history of film noir spanning from 1904 to 2019.