WHAT’S THE STORY?
THE Force, it seems, is with Los Angeles, with San Francisco left on the Dark Side.
Star Wars creator George Lucas and his team were on the side of the City of Angels over the City by the Bay, choosing LA as the home of a museum that will showcase his life’s work alongside a huge collection of exhibits on film history and art.
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After what organisers called “extensive due diligence and deliberation”, they announced that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be built in Exposition Park, where it will sit alongside the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Science Centre, which houses the space shuttle Endeavour.
Lucas is financing the project by himself and plans to spend more than $1 billion to build the museum and provide a collection of initial artworks valued at over $400 million. Together with Chinese architect Ma Yansong, Lucas has proposed a sleek, futuristic design.
It had several possible locations, but the choice eventually came down to perpetual rivals in Northern and Southern California.
San Francisco offered Treasure Island, with its scenic views in the middle of the bay, as a home that the museum would have virtually to itself.
WHAT WILL BE ON SHOW?
THE museum will house Lucas’s personal collection, which includes 40,000 paintings, illustrations and film-related items including storyboards and costumes from The Wizard Of Oz, Casablanca, and, of course, Star Wars. As well as Star Wars items like Darth Vader’s helmet, the museum will show artworks chosen from the 40,000 items in Lucas’s collection, including works by such artists as Norman Rockwell, Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti emphasised that it would not be simply “a Star Wars museum”.
“This is a collection of narrative art in a city that has the best storytellers and story makers in the world,” Garcetti said at a news conference.
San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee said: “I am disappointed, of course, but must respect the decision. I am pleased that the museum will be built in California for our state’s residents to some day enjoy.”
LA seemed an obvious choice for Lucas, not merely because of its film industry legacy. He is an alumnus and major donor to the film school at the University of Southern California, which is opposite the museum site.
WHY LOS ANGELES?
LUCAS has strong ties to San Francisco and has lived in the Bay Area for most of his life, with the city home to Lucasfilm until Disney bought it in 2012.
But Garcetti said LA’s Exposition Park site would allow museum-hoppers to see movie-magic spacecraft and then walk over to see the real thing: the space shuttle.
“You can go from imagining space, to actually seeing how it got done,” the mayor said. “You can see how we are inspired by the natural world, and see how we put it on the screen.”
Exposition Park also is home to the LA Memorial Coliseum, where the USC Trojans and Los Angeles Rams play football, and an under-construction stadium for a new Major League Soccer team, LAFC.
A light railway line that opened last year connects the park with central Los Angeles and the beaches to the west.
The project also comes amid a museum boom in Los Angeles which includes The Broad, a buzzing new contemporary art museum in the city centre.
And it makes Southern California the definitive home base of the Star Wars galaxy, with Disney having bought the rights to the franchise and now building a Star Wars-themed land within its Magic Kingdom in Anaheim.
Lucas made the first Star Wars film in 1977 and sold the franchise to Walt Disney in 2012 for $4bn.
HOW LONG HAS THE MUSEUM BEEN IN THE PIPELINE?
LUCAS first pitched his project to San Francisco in 2010 and considered a site in the Presidio, but the trust which oversaw the park ultimately rebuffed him. He then took his project to Chicago, his wife’s hometown, but preservationists campaigned successfully to keep it off the lakefront.
Lengthy delays prompted Lucas to abandon that bid in June and change tactics.
In October, Lucas unveiled similar but competing designs for Los Angeles and San Francisco sites, turning the project into a public competition. This seems to have worked, and construction could begin quickly ahead of a projected 2020 finish date.