George Lucas' museum will call Los Angeles home
SAN FRANCISCO (AP and KTVU) — The force, it seems, was with Los Angeles. And San Francisco was 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 on Tuesday, choosing LA as the home of a museum that will showcase his life's work and huge film history collection.
After what organizers called "extensive due diligence and deliberation," they announced that the museum will be built in Exposition Park in Los Angeles, where it will sit alongside other more traditional museums including the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Lucas has been trying to build the museum, called The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, for nearly a decade, and is financing the project by himself with plans to spend over $1 billion.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was hoping Treasure Island would get the museum.
He tweeted, "What better place to ignite the power of imagination and inspire future innovators than continuing the legacy where it began."
The prize was big, and both cities wanted it badly.
The appealing project became the source of yet another heated rivalry between the two always-competing cities, with San Francisco offering Treasure Island with its scenic views in the middle of the bay as a home that the museum would have had virtually to itself.
"We have been humbled by the overwhelmingly positive support we received from both San Francisco and Los Angeles during our selection process," the museum organizers said in a statement.
It will house an extensive personal collection that includes 40,000 paintings, illustrations and film-related items including storyboards and costumes from "The Wizard of Oz," `'Casablanca" and of course "Star Wars."
LA seemed an obvious choice for Lucas, not just because of its film industry legacy. He is an alumnus of the film school at the University of Southern California, which is right across the street from the museum site.
But Lucas has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of his life, and it was home to Lucasfilm until Disney Co. bought it in 2012.
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement after the decision that "millions of Angelenos and visitors will enjoy an extraordinary collection anchored in storytelling -- an art that carries so much meaning in the history and legacy of Los Angeles."
The "Star Wars" creator is financing the project himself. He plans to spend more than $1 billion to build the museum, endow it and provide a trove of initial artworks valued at over $400 million. Together with Chinese architect Ma Yansong, Lucas has proposed a sleek, futuristic design looks like a cross between the Guggenheim and a galactic starfighter.
The museum's bold design and concept make clear that the 72-year-old filmmaker sees it as part of his legacy, and he is increasingly impatient to break ground.
"It's not just an enormous philanthropic gift to a city and to the world, but it is a unique museum in the way it is envisioned," said Don Bacigalupi, an art historian and respected museum director Lucas hired as its founding president. "Certainly, we'll be looking forward to the day we can move the art into a museum."
The museum will not, as many assume, be a repository for "Star Wars" memorabilia.
It will, however, show how Lucas spent some of his filmmaking fortune and that his interest in art extends beyond movies.
An avid collector for more than 40 years, Lucas is giving the museum some 10,000 paintings and illustrations that include dozens of Norman Rockwells and works from French impressionist Edgar Degas to American contemporary artist Keith Haring. There are illustrations for classic children's books by Beatrix Potter of "Peter Rabbit" fame and Jean de Brunhoff, who created "Babar."
The museum gets its pick from some 30,000 film-related pieces including storyboards and costumes from "The Wizard of Oz," ''Casablanca," and, naturally, "Star Wars."
There's art from comic books, graphic novels and other popular works that Lucas hopes will attract people who don't typically visit museums.
In 2010, Lucas first pitched his project to San Francisco and considered a site in the Presidio, but the trust that oversaw the park ultimately rebuffed him. He then took his project to Chicago, his wife's hometown, but preservationists sued to keep it off the lakefront.
Lengthy delays prompted Lucas to abandon that bid in June and change strategy.